On the eve of the Israeli elections, the “PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” published a relatively detailed position paper in Hebrew, aiming to explain the organization’s positions regarding relations with Israel and its points of contention with Israel. It seems that the timing had to do with the Palestinians’ frustration with the marginalization of Israeli-Palestinian relations within the Israeli pre-election discourse. This marginalization seems to reflect the growing trend in Israeli politics that perceives no Palestinian partner for serious peace negotiations. Another possible reason for the timing is the forthcoming publication of the US peace plan.
Two main themes stand out in the 37-page paper. First, it states that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas is a serious partner for negotiations. Second, the blame for the failure of the peace process is laid at the door of the Israeli and US governments, with an emphasis on the administrations led by Netanyahu and President Trump respectively.
The writers of the paper hope to mislead its readers and gain sympathy for their cause by highlighting various aspects of the Palestinian approach. However, the paper is full of lies and inaccuracies, the vast majority of which are well-known falsehoods. Critical readers of the paper will therefore conclude that:
- The main impediment on the journey towards peace is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish people’s state;
- Israel’s Nation-State Law is essential;
- To the Palestinians, the Israeli and American response to the Palestinian insistence on paying salaries to terrorists is at the heart of the problem. The committee devotes four entire pages just to this issue, and none of it is accurate. Yet, the writers fully expose the true Palestinian attitude, which is a commitment to ongoing incitement and terrorist campaigns against Israel.
The writers of the position paper are careful not to use the term “the Jewish people.” The use of this term is tantamount to heresy in the Palestinian narrative, a narrative that continues to deny the existence of a Jewish people or nation. So, in its opening, the paper states that it is intended for the people living in Israel, the Jews of the world, and the international community. Their refusal to accept Israel as the Jewish Nation’s state is also reflected in the repeated references to the resolution of the refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194 of 1948. The Palestinians see this resolution as promising the refugees the right to return to their homes.
I do not intend to dwell on all the errors and lies included in the paper. I will mention in passing the distorted interpretation of Resolution 242. It is portrayed as requiring Israeli withdrawal from all the territories Israel took over in 1967 (“conquered” or “occupied” is the word used in the paper). This is based on the principle outlined in the preamble of the resolution stating the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” At the same time, the writers ignore the wording of the resolution itself, which calls on Israel to withdraw from territories, but not from all the territories, and does not mention the Palestinians at all. I do not intend to go into detail to refute the distorted manner in which the paper portrays history since 1988′ just to mention that it completely ignores Palestinian terrorism as the main factor preventing the implementation of the Oslo Accords. It also makes no mention of the Palestinian obstinacy and intransigence that led to the rejection of all American and Israeli initiatives.
The Jewish State and Israel’s Nation-State Law
Countless times the paper emphasizes the Palestinian willingness for a two-state solution – Israel and Palestine – existing side-by-side on the 1967 lines, but nowhere does it use the phrase “two states for two peoples.” Simply put, the Palestinians object to this statement. This phrase implies a recognition of the Jewish Nation, and Israel as the state of the Jewish Nation. (Mahmoud Abbas has occasionally expressed himself in this way, usually to mislead a Jewish or Western audience, and then he meant that the people living in Israel are the Israeli nation. In other words, Israel is not a state of the Jewish Nation.)
This issue becomes even more obvious through the untruthful representation of “Israel’s Nation-State Law.” The PLO paper states that Israel’s Nation-State Law opposes the two-state solution; refers to “historical Palestine” as “greater Israel;” and invalidates the existence of the Palestinian people and “its right to self-determination in its own independent national state on its homeland.”
All these claims are obviously groundless. Israel’s Nation-State Law does not deal with these issues at all. Apart from determining that the Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and the State of Israel was established in it (Article 1), it does not address the Palestinians or any future relations with them. No mention is made of possible borders that will separate the state of Israel and any Palestinian entity.
It is impossible, in this context, not to ask what the term “historical Palestine” means in the PLO paper. The term Palestine was used by the British Mandate to describe the Land of Israel as an administrative area. This was a renewal of a Roman term. The Palestinian national identity was formed at the earliest during the first half of the 20th century (up until then the Arab residents of this region saw themselves as Arabs. Therefore, the UN Partition Plan proposed the establishment of two states, Jewish and Arab).
The chapter of the position paper devoted to the Jewish identity of the state and Israel’s Nation-State Law outlines the absurdities that the Palestinians repeatedly present when discussing the subject. They argue that the term “State of Israel” negates the identity of the state as a Jewish state (or rather as the national state of the Jewish people). Among other arguments to substantiate this pronouncement, the Palestinians claim that when Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the state, he declared that it would be called the “State of Israel” and not the Jewish state. (This is a distortion since Ben Gurion said: “We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, as the State of Israel.” Israel’s Declaration of Independence deals extensively with the identity of the state as a state for the Jewish people). Another false Palestinian claim is that in President Truman’s letter of recognition of Israel, he crossed out the words “Jewish state” and replaced them with “State of Israel.” In fact, an Israeli representative made the change even before Truman signed the document. He did so as soon as it was publicized that Ben Gurion had named the new state “Israel.”
The PLO position paper’s authors claim that the Nation-State Law denies the rights of the Palestinian Arab minority inside Israel and deprives Palestinians in the occupied territories of their right to proclaim their own identity. This makes the Israeli government, whether purposefully or not, into an apartheid regime such as existed in South Africa. In reality, these claims are groundless, since the Nation-State Law does not determine anything regarding Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Israel is not and will never be an apartheid state. This is partly so because the Palestinians are already privileged with the ability to control their own affairs. The only exception to this is regarding elements that affect Israel’s security, and only very few in Israel has any intention of compromising in this area. As for the Arab citizens of Israel, the full and equal civil and political rights that they have are guaranteed by other basic laws.
The Palestinians use the paper to complain that Israel demands Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state (the state of the Jewish people). They claim that Israel did not demand this from Egypt or Jordan and that this stipulation was not made during the talks that preceded the signing of the Oslo Accords. These arguments are correct, but they are deceptively presented. Israel did not ask this from Egypt and Jordan, because they did not insist on recognition of a “right of return.” They also did not adhere to the “PLO’s Phased Plan,” which amounts to seeking the destruction of Israel. The Palestinian claims regarding Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s demands are partly justified. As soon as Rabin realized that by not requesting recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, he allowed the Palestinians to relate to the State of Israel as a non-Jewish state, he then demanded that the Palestinians revoke the Palestinian National Covenant. Despite numerous promises and resolutions, this covenant was never altered.
The most fascinating sentence of all in the Palestinian paper is this: “Is it conceivable that the Palestinians will accept the demand to recognize the Jewishness of Israel, and thereby agree to undermine the cornerstone of the foundation for the political solution between Palestine and Israel?”
In other words, for the Palestinians not recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish Nation is the most important element of any solution. This means that the Palestinians maintain the hope of making Israel part of a future Palestinian state. Is anything more powerful than that is illustrating the problematic nature of the Palestinian rationale?
With a certain degree of candor, the paper admits to Palestinian incitement against Israel. However, the authors claim that the incitement is aimed at the occupation and not at Israel. In their words, this is different from the Israeli incitement and hostility towards Palestinians and all Arabs. The paper claims that the scope of the Palestinian incitement intensified in reaction to the “occupation” using more drastic administrative measures. The paper states that Israel rejected a Palestinian proposal to renew the activity of the “Trilateral Anti-Incitement Committee” on the grounds of the incitement being only Palestinian in its origins.
These Palestinian claims are all false. Palestinian incitement is widespread and directed against the very existence of Israel, and certainly against its existence as the state of the Jewish Nation. These messages are conveyed by the Palestinian school system, which ignores Israel in its textbooks and maps, by Palestinian TV shows that call for the destruction of the State of Israel, and by encouraging the hatred towards Jews through various initiatives. The Palestinian incitement routinely justifies and glorifies acts of terror against Israel.
In contrast, the incitement that is present on the margins of the Israeli political system is condemned by the Israeli government and society. The Palestinian incitement is institutionalized and supported by the Palestinian government itself. This was the reason for Israel’s opposition to renewing the activity of the Anti-Incitement Committee. The Israeli message was that there is no need for a committee; the Palestinians simply need to decide to stop the incitement and implement the Oslo accords.
The severity of the Palestinians’ declaration of their commitment to continue their policy of incitement cannot be overstated. This commitment emerges clearly from the paper. The Palestinians, in fact, testify that they are not interlocutors for peace. Their policy is to continue to incite for as long as Israel does not accept all of their conditions. This commitment to incitement is particularly significant because it is in direct contradiction to the Palestinian commitments in the Oslo Accords and all agreements signed with them since then. The Palestinians actually say, “We signed and pledged, but we never intended to comply.” This problematic attitude is even more troubling because of the motive for this incitement. It aims to instill the Palestinian consciousness with the Palestinian narrative. This narrative is the primary obstacle to peace and is the source of ongoing terrorism. This is the narrative that proclaims that there is no Jewish people. It states that the Jews do not have a history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The Jews are despicable creatures rejected by the colonialist Westerners who invented Zionism to get rid of them. Therefore, the ongoing struggle against Zionism is legitimate. This PLO paper, intended for Israeli ears, attempts to hide these beliefs to some extent. However, this is the Palestinian narrative upon which a Palestinian state will eventually be established on the entire territory of “historic Palestine.”
Support for Families of Terrorists who Were Arrested or Died
The paper states that the allowances paid by the Palestinian Authority to the families of Palestinian casualties and prisoners are not categorized as support for terrorism. It claims that these casualties and prisoners did not commit acts of terror. They are in essence “freedom fighters” who are acting as part of a legitimate national struggle against foreign occupation. Therefore, their families have the right to receive compensation for sending their sons to battle.
The Palestinians base these claims on former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s remark that if he were a Palestinian of the right age, he would have joined a terrorist organization. Additional assertions in the PLO paper are that Israel did not punish the families of members of the Jewish underground and even shortened the perpetrators’ terms of imprisonment. Nothing, they claim, was done to the families of Yigal Amir, Baruch Goldstein, Elior Azaria, and other Israelis who carried out attacks against Palestinians. Israel never released the Palestinian prisoners that were included in the “fourth stage” of a plan formulated during talks held by US Secretary of State, Kerry. Another argument presented in the paper is that Israel reduced the services provided to Palestinian prisoners. As a result, the Palestinian Authority must assist them in financing their expenses at the prison canteen and also finance family visits (after the International Red Cross stopped funding these visits).
The Palestinian confirmation that the payments to the prisoner terrorists and the families of Palestinian casualties are not “welfare support” paid to needy families should be appreciated, as this false claim is made by some Palestinian sources occasionally. In this paper, they actually admit that these payments are an expression of esteem for the terrorist attacks that these people carried out. Even so, the Palestinians’ assertions are far from reflecting reality. In fact, the PA pays an incredibly substantial salary, in Palestinian terms, to terrorists (NIS 1.27 billion, or seven percent of the 2018 budget). It promises these payments to terrorists in advance and thereby encourages terrorism. The PA treats any terrorist as someone who was sent by the leadership of the Palestinian national entity on a mission to carry out an attack. This strongly contrasts with its obligations to fight terror under the Oslo Accords and violates international law. The salaries paid to terrorists reflect the inherent Palestinian commitment, in spite of the Oslo Accords, to the violent struggle against Israel, by encouraging terrorism, and putting terrorists on a pedestal for society to worship.
The Arab Initiative
The paper illustrates the Palestinian view on the normalization promised to Israel under the Arab initiative. It will be possible only after Israel withdraws from all of the territories and recognizes an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 borders (and in this context will agree to a solution to the refugee problem in accordance with Resolution 194). This message is intended not only for the Israeli public but also for the Arab countries. It reflects the Palestinian fear of the Arab states progressing in their relations with Israel without achieving the desired Palestinian settlement.
The Palestinian position paper brings nothing new to light. It once again details the reasons for there being no Palestinian partner for peace. It displays that there is no chance of making progress in the peace process, even within the framework of the American plan. At the root of this stalemate is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish Nation. The second insurmountable obstacle to peace is their extreme unwillingness to stop inciting and supporting terrorism, which means that Israel needs robust capabilities on security in any future agreement.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.