Do the Palestinians Really Just Want the West Bank? The Dates Tell the Truth

The world cautiously awaits the release of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. In analyzing it, it will be important to see if they remember that 1964 was before 1967. Why? For decades, US and EU leaders have struggled mightily to resolve this painful, costly, and seemingly intractable conflict. The predominant narrative is that the desire of the Palestinians is to bring about the end of the Israeli occupation of the “occupied territories” and thereby enable them to establish their own country on that land. Because of that presumed goal, Israelis living in the region termed Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland, are making that objective more difficult to accomplish and were thus termed by former US president Obama as “obstacles to peace.” According to this line of reasoning, if Israel would simply withdraw their citizens and military from the “Occupied West Bank” peace would flourish.

The huge flaw in that account is the date when the current Palestinian representative organization entered the stage of history. The current “recognized” representation of the Palestinians is the Palestinian Authority (PA), in Judea and Samaria. (Hamas controls Gaza.) That body is a direct continuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). And what was the PLO? The PLO was founded in 1964 at the Cairo Arab League Summit with the purpose of the “liberation of Palestine” through armed struggle, i.e. terrorism. At that time the “West Bank” was ruled by Jordan, in an occupation recognized only by Pakistan, Iraq, and the UK, but not contested by the PLO. In their charter they explicitly excluded that land from their armed struggle. They were not interested in it. They had no desire to set up an independent Palestinian country in the West Bank. Israel liberated that territory in the June 1967 Six Day War.

The PLO having been formed in 1964 and Israel liberating Judea and Samaria three years later, in 1967, can mean only one thing – and the PLO charter says it explicitly – the PLO was founded not to end the occupation of the West Bank, but to destroy the State of Israel. When the PLO was formed, Egypt controlled Gaza, Jordan occupied the eastern half of Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Syria still sat on the Golan Heights. The PLO charter, adopted in 1964 and slightly modified in 1968 (to include Judea and Samaria) and 1974 calls for the “the liquidation of the Zionist presence.” “The Zionist presence” is code for the State of Israel, so this clause is a call for the destruction of Israel. The Charter actually rules out any diplomatic solution short of elimination of Israel! The obstacles to peace, as Obama called them, are not the residents of Bet El, Ariel, and Otniel, but the residents of Tel Aviv, Hadera, and Ramat Hasharon.

Might the PLO have changed its goals since 1964? As part of the failed “Oslo Accords” signed in 1993, the PLO leaders pledged to modify the PLO charter to include the recognition of Israel’s right to exist. In 1996, as part of “Oslo II”, Israel insisted that the charter be modified as such by March, 1996. The charter’s final Article stipulates that the Charter can only be amended by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the National Congress of the PLO at a special session convened for that purpose. Despite the leadership’s repeated promises to the West, such a session has not been called in the 25 years since the signing of the Oslo accords.

The PLO, since its founding, has sought one thing, and it is not the end of the occupation by Israel of the West Bank. They were founded in 1964 when there were no Jews living in Judea and Samaria. They said it then and for anyone who listens and cares, they have not changed their goals – they want all of Israel. Thus, to live with the fantasy that an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines will satisfy the Palestinian demands and bring peace, is merely playing with the lives of Israelis who will be in even greater risk.

It is yet to be seen if the Trump team has been cognizant of the 1964 founding of the PLO and taken it into account. No peace plan can have any hope of working unless it takes into consideration that important fact – the PLO was founded three years before Israel liberated Judea and Samaria in 1967. The Palestinians are not fighting for an end to that “occupation”; they want an end to the “occupation” of all of Israel. Anyone, whether it be the EU, Jewish Americans in J-Street or IfNotNow, or the Israeli left, who supports the PA in their unmodified ambitions is supporting a call to annihilate over 7,000,000 people. Rabin and Peres had said that if the charter were not modified, “the peace train will come to a halt.” It wasn’t (modified) and it should (come to a halt).

It behooves us all to remember that 1964 was before 1967.

About the Author
Ari Zivotofsky is a professor of neuroscience at Bar Ilan University. Also trained as a rabbi and shochet, he has a masters degree in Jewish history. He has written extensively on topics of Jewish history, culture, and traditions, in particular in his regular column (now running 20 years) in the OU magazine Jewish Action and in Mishpacha magazine.
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