If incitement were the major barrier to peace that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims it is, there would never have been peace with Egypt.
Incitement is the work of hatemongers and ideologues seeking to prevent peace, and those who let them get away with it do so either because they are looking for excuses to fail or because they are too weak to lead.
That is not to say it is not a serious problem, because it is, particularly when it turns violent. That is when the response of leaders becomes critical, when they decide whether they want to give in to the terrorists in their midst or stop them. But there is also the non-verbal form. The most egregious example of that is the denial by Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the existence of the Holy Temple there.
The Palestinian side does not have a monopoly on incitement. There’s enough guilt to go around. Combating incitement means starting by cracking down on the terrorists on both sides and leaders preparing their people for peace. That means no more promises they know they can’t keep and honesty about the essential compromises– refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and borders for starters.
Opening the path to peace requires leaders to speak truth to their people. Palestinians will not get an unfettered right of return for all refugees and their descendants, not even a small fraction; Jerusalem will have to be re-divided; many settlements and thousands of settlers will have to be remove; borders will change and have to be realistic to allow commerce and unimpeded internal travel; Israel’s long term security needs will have to be respected, and finally there must be an end to all claims against Israel and recognition of Israel by the other Arab states, including a formal end to the conflict.
I don’t equate Israeli with Palestinian incitement. Israel’s leadership for the most part condemns such behavior, which is largely but not exclusively on the fringe. But Israel has its share of poisonous politicians and rabid rabbis. I’m not talking about those who have sincere policy differences over issues like the two-state approach or settlements but those who preach hatred and encourage – or at a minimum – violence.
Incitement is not an obstacle to peace unless leaders want it to be.
A far greater problem are the twin schisms: in Palestinian society, between a secular national movement that seeks a two-state solution, and an Islamic terror organization whose goal is the eradication of Israel; and in an Israel torn between a radical ultra-nationalist, ultra-religious movement and its supporters, who regard every peace effort as treason, and a more progressive majority whose pro-peace voice has tragically faded to a whisper in recent years.