Are the Israelis and Palestinians interested in peace with each other? It’s an important question that’s rarely asked, but its answer is almost always assumed. The cynics, usually found on the political right, assume that Palestinians are not interested in peace while the Israelis are interested and the more optimistic observers, usually found on the left and in the peace camp assume that both Israelis and Palestinians are interested in peace. All peace endeavors, whether those from Madrid, Oslo, Wye or Annapolis, assume that both parties are interested in peace and have generally been wrong.
In Israel’s Declaration of Independence the Zionist founders wrote, “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.” Any cursory look at Israel’s record shows a constant outreach to its Arab neighbors and Palestinian residents to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict. Israeli Prime Ministers on the left and the right, Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have all extended themselves and made far reaching offers to find a peaceful solution.
Unfortunately an honest look at the Palestinian record doesn’t show the same. Palestinians have turned down at least nine Israeli offers of peace. They’ve repeatedly turned down opportunities for their own state. They spend over $350 million a year on a “pay for slay” program that incentivizes its people to commit terror acts against Israelis. They name schools, monuments and city streets after terrorists, honoring their dastardly acts. Poll after poll shows support for violence against Israelis. It is made more and more obvious that the Palestinians are interested in an end to the conflict that includes an end to a Jewish Israel, but not a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes a Jewish Israel.
Palestinians turn down offer after offer and the world ignores them. First the world said to wait until a peace deal was signed with a major Arab nation. After Egypt made peace, and the Palestinians still refused to make peace (even to negotiate) the world said to wait until the Palestinians came around. When it seemed the Palestinians were finally ready to make peace, Oslo stalled (or failed) with a deadly intifada and President Bush said wait until Arafat dies. When Arafat died and Abbas proved he was no different, the world said to wait, the Palestinian people are different than their leadership. When the Palestinian people then elected Hamas to represent them, the world said Hamas also wasn’t representative of the Palestinian people. Just wait, the world said, the peaceful Palestinian people will rise, and then there will be peace. President Obama forced Israel to stop building, and Abbas stalled. John Kerry said there would be peace, and he too failed.
Now we have the Trump peace plan. The Trump administration approached the conflict differently. They didn’t assume either side was interested in peace, but offered great incentives for both sides to engage in direct negotiations for peace. As could’ve been easily predicted, the Israelis immediately accepted the opportunity to pursue peace. Irrationally, the Palestinians not only rejected the Trump peace plan, but refused to even negotiate a better deal.
The world assumes that the Palestinian leadership, whether it be the Palestinian Authority, Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are the exceptions. The people themselves desire peace. I know there are peaceful Palestinians interested in living peacefully with or next to a Jewish Israel. I’ve met and spent time with these Palestinians. Unfortunately, I’ve seen no evidence to think that these peaceful Palestinians are the majority or even a significant minority. It seems that while Israel is interested in peace, the peaceful Palestinian is a fantastical projection of hopeful people, assuming without evidence that the Palestinians are willing to compromise for peace.
One of the critiques of the Trump peace plan is that it sets impossible standards for the Palestinians to meet. Yet, a careful look at the conditions shows that they’re designed to ensure a Palestinian state forgoes its violent and corrupt practices and commits to a peaceful relationship with Israel. Those who claim the conditions are impossible for the Palestinians to meet are actually saying that the Palestinians aren’t interested in peace.
It is time that the world recognizes that the Palestinians aren’t interested in peace. The Palestinians should be treated as a people less concerned with peace and more concerned with a dangerous mix of victimhood and violence. The world should stop demanding that Israel offer more concessions to incentivize the Palestinians to negotiate. Israel should be allowed to develop and grow based on their needs and not take the Palestinians’ concerns into account until they change.