Here is a good example of why Americans are misled about Mideast issues. In today’s local paper, I came across a story headlined “Israelis may vote on peace deal.” It began as follows:
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s premier announced Monday he is fast-tracking legislation that would allow him to put any peace deal with the Palestinians to a national referendum – an apparent attempt to silence hard-liners in his party and coalition government. …
Netanyahu said Monday that a referendum is necessary to prevent a rift in Israeli society. Polls have suggested a majority of Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but many groups are vehemently opposed, including hard-liners among Israel’s West Bank settlers. [my emphasis]
The impression given is that although a majority of Israelis favor an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PLO-controlled Palestinian ‘government’, to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and perhaps eastern Jerusalem, and turn them over to become a Palestinian state, the peace process is being stymied by “hard-liners.”
The truth does not remotely resemble this. A majority of Israelis know that the PA has little support from the residents of the areas that it controls and none at all in Gaza, where 40% of the Palestinian Arabs live. They also know that the security consequences of a withdrawal from the territories would be unacceptable, and that while the PLO is sincere about wanting to get Israel out of the territories, it is not sincere about making peace.
The poll results mentioned in the story are based on questions like this: “Would you favor the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel?” Of course a majority of Israelis would agree! Who doesn’t want peace? But at the same time, most realize that under today’s circumstances, an Israeli withdrawal would lead to anything but a peaceful state. They have the continuing example of Gaza, in case they forget what a sovereign Palestinian state is like.
In addition, they know that the gaps between Israel and the PLO on such issues as refugees, Jerusalem, borders, etc. are as wide as ever — perhaps even wider than in 2000 or 2008, when an agreement could not be reached. They know that the PLO has preferred to get its way be manipulating the UN, the Europeans and the US, rather than in meaningful negotiations with Israel in which they might have to give something up. They know that the PLO has avoided talks for years by placing impossible preconditions on them. So they understand that talks are most likely only a way to pressure Israel to make concessions without much chance of success.
And they know that the PLO has sponsored terrorism against Jewish civilians consistently since its beginnings, and that terrorism generally increases when negotiations are taking place. They know that the PA never lets up on its incitement, or on its glorification of the most vicious mass murdering terrorists as heroes.
They know that many of the 118 prisoners that are about to be released as a good-will gesture to bring the Palestinians to the table have murdered Jews for political reasons, and that they will return home to hero’s welcomes. They will comprise a direct affront to the honor of Israel and the Jewish people, demonstrating that we are too weak to punish the murderers of our brothers, sisters and children.
Recent bad ideas, like Oslo and the Gaza withdrawal, were implemented without public approval. Oslo was dropped on Israelis after secret maneuvers by politicians who did not represent them, and after they elected a Prime Minister who opposed a Palestinian state (and who, even after Oslo, opposed withdrawing from much of the territories and opposed granting full sovereignty to the proposed Palestinian entity).
In the case of Gaza, Ariel Sharon held a referendum among members of his own Likud party, 65% of whom rejected his plan — which he put into effect anyway, even after saying that he would respect the views of party members!
If there were a referendum on any proposed agreement with the PA, these are the considerations that would be taken by ordinary Israelis who are not politicians, media personalities or academics. It is hard to imagine that an agreement like the ones that were rejected by the Arabs in 2000 and 2008 would stand a chance among the general public today.