Barry Shaw

If you want peace you have to get real

When it comes to the Middle East policymakers tend to live in a world of wishful thinking, not reality. In Israel, we know better. We learned the hard way.

The international community demanded that we allow Yasser Arafat back into the area from his forced exile in Tunis and he would give us peace. We did. Yizhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accord on the White House lawn, and then Arafat gave us more terror and death.

The Bush Administration insisted we allow Palestinians the vote and they would give us peace. We did. They voted for Hamas. People said to Israel, “Just move out of Gaza and you’ll have peace.” We did, and Hamas gave us death, destruction, and rockets.

The West, led by Obama, looked on the upheaval on the Arab street as something positive. They called it “the Arab Spring.” We, in Israel, said you’ve got your seasons wrong. It’s the “Islamic Winter.” We were right.

The same mistake was made by devotees of the ‘Wishful Thinking’ foreign policy strategy, the Obama-Clinton partnership. They threw Mubarak under the bus to encourage Egyptians to vote. Egyptians voted 74% for radical Islamist parties. The notion that Arab voting gets you a democratic liberal society has yet to be proven. Let’s get real. You can’t fight for peace if you can’t face the reality of facts on the ground.

After the Arabs lost five wars of aggression against the nascent State of Israel they restructured their war against us to become the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They invented a narrative that positioned Israel as anti-peace. This narrative was adopted by many left-wing organisations and NGOs, and has soaked its way into liberal thinking. If this is so, if Israel is so anti-peace, why have consecutive Israeli prime ministers – Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu – been prepared to accept the right of Palestinians to a state of their own?

And why hasn’t any Palestinian leader accepted the generous land concessions offered by Barak and Olmert? Has any Palestinian or Arab leader said they recognize the right of the Jewish people to a land of their own? Have they accepted our historic and ancient connections to this land? No.  Instead, The Arabs have taken any Israeli land concession to mean that the land was theirs, not ours relinquished in a gesture of peace. Arab logic cannot accept the notion of someone giving up something that belongs to him. This is the twist they put on peace gestures.

Mahmoud Abbas said, “We will never accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, not in a thousand years!” Not in a thousand years! How do you make peace with someone who refuses to recognize your legitimacy?

Israelis want peace. Most Israelis don’t object to giving land to Palestinian Arabs, if for no other reason than to get them off our backs. Do I think it’s going to happen? No, absolutely not. Will there be peace? No. Is there anything Israel can do to help foster peace? No, except perhaps for packing out bags and quietly leaving the area. That’s the reality.

Let’s get real. Let’s take off our rose-tinted glasses, as I did some years ago. Let’s put aside wishful thinking, including the futile concept that all Israel has to do is to make more concessions, more one-sided gestures, and Jew and Arab can live around the campfire singing Kumbaya. It isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen because the Arabs, the Islamists, the Palestinians, and others, have an agenda that is completely different from our utopian dreams. It’s time to stop being naive peacemakers and to become what I call “pragmatic realists.” It’s time to demand an end to the ambition to eliminate the Jewish State of Israel. Anyone genuinely interested in promoting peace must concentrate his efforts on telling Palestinian and Arab leaders, “Let’s get real.” Not, “Let’s get Israel,” but “Let’s get real.”

Get real. Learn, in a hard-headed way, what is happening here. Whatever land is surrendered to them, whatever they have received from us and others has emboldened them. They’ve become more rejectionist, more adamant in their ongoing demands. Concessions have become launching pads for the next stage in their ongoing campaign to eradicate the Jewish state. Those who say that we should have two states living side by side in peace are wishful thinkers. It isn’t going to happen, not because the majority of Israelis don’t want it to happen. They do. It isn’t going to happen because the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want it to happen. They have other ambitions, and they don’t include Israel.

Listen to what they tell their own people. What the Palestinian want, what their agenda is about, is not what they tell the Western media in English. It’s what they tell their own people in Arabic. What they tell CNN and the BBC is a subterfuge, a deception. It’s a message designed to put pressure on Israel to weaken itself. Proof of this is found in what they are telling their own people. They are telling them they are weakening the “Zionist entity” and that they will eventually annihilate it. They are saying there must be no compromise on this holy mission, and that every Palestinian, every Arab, must play his part in this mission.

Everything being spoken, printed, shown on their TV screens, enshrined in their charters, preached in their mosques, taught in their schools, promoted in their civic, cultural and sporting events, dedicated at their official ceremonies, consecrated in the naming of their streets and squares, points to one thing. They are for confrontation with Israel and against peace.

At a Fatah event, they included the message that Palestinian children are created so that their blood will be fertilizer to saturate the land. That is the inflammatory language they use. Kids are being conditioned today to be martyrs and suicide bombers by our negotiating partners. How is that conditioning their people for peaceful coexistence? It’s not, because peace is not their agenda. Incitement is rampant within the Palestinian Authority. It conditions their people, from children to adults, to hate and kill Jews.

The Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, gave a speech at a public event last March. He said publicly: “Kill the Jews!” Quoting from a notorious hadith this imam declared: “The time will come when Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them.” What would have been the Muslim world’s reaction if Israel’s chief rabbi had called on Jews to kill Muslims? Absolute outrage, and rightly so, but this incitement was taken as a given in the Muslim world, and not even mentioned in the Western media.

Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at the UN General Assembly last year, referred to the Holy Land as “Palestine. Holy to Muslims and Christians.” What about Israel? What about the Jews? He never mentioned the Jews. Jews, for him, have no history, no rights at all. It’s as if the Bible never existed. The land is theirs, and we are just latter-day colonialists and usurpers. In November, he’ll be back at the UN. In defiance of signed agreements with Israel he wants to obtain non-member statehood unilaterally. Instead of acting for peace, his purpose is conflict by using this new status to harass institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, with endless accusations against Israel. For him, agreements have no validity except to provide temporary gains before being dishonored and discarded when further gains become possible elsewhere.

Let’s be honest. According to the Arabs, Israel is Islamic Arab Palestine. Everything given them becomes stations on the way to total victory, the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem in the Middle East. Jews are fine wandering the earth as minority citizens in strange lands. There is no such thing as the Jewish people. They are a religion only, and they should be sent back to that status and kept there.

This is the reality that no amount of wishful thinking can rectify. Throwing billions of dollars at the Palestinian leadership has not made them more pragmatic. Future aid must be conditional, conditional on them coming to the negotiating table, and conditional on goodwill gestures and concessions initiated by them to show us that they mean business. After all, they are the ones who want a nation of their own. This should come with strings attached. That’s the practical way to peace.

Israel remains ready for an accommodation that must give us iron-clad guarantees. Not a piece of paper, but something tangible, something we can control. You will pardon us for not trusting the Palestinians. Israel should not relinquish further land, nor make any concessions, until we are certain of a comprehensive, end-of-conflict settlement. That doesn’t make us racist, or fascists, or warmongers. It makes us practical realists.

If we continue to be unjustly demonized and delegitimized, so be it. Better to stand firm, strong in the knowledge of who we are, while praying for the emergence of a genuine, pragmatic peace partner.

Barry Shaw is the author of ISRAEL RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE.

About the Author
Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism,' '1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel, 'BDS for IDIOTS,' and his latest work 'A Tale of Love and Destiny,' the dramatic life of a Jewish heroine.