The Palestinian plan to protest the 100th anniversary on November 7 of the historic Balfour Declaration, in which Great Britain seminally endorsed a Jewish homeland in Palestine, is a fitting context for the current controversy over the proposed Greater Jerusalem Bill, which would bring settlements adjacent to the current boundaries of Jerusalem under its administrative control.
Fundamental to the Palestinian position is the claim that the very idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine is antithetical to Palestinian “national” rights since in 1917, 90 percent of the area’s population was Palestinian Arab and 10 percent was Jewish.
To be sure, there is a lot wrong with the Palestinians’ analysis, but it is the bottom line that looms large. If they posit to this day that the very existence of Israel comes only at their ongoing expense, how then can they be expected to seriously negotiate with Israel on any matter?
We have long felt it is this mindset – this failure to come to terms with the notion of legitimate Jewish rights anywhere in Palestine – that has driven Palestinian recalcitrance during the numerous efforts to negotiate a peace settlement. And it also has confirmed the justification of Israel’s insistence on realistic solutions rather than airy diplomatic rhetoric and promises.
With this in mind, the Greater Jerusalem proposal could be the vehicle to turn things around. The legislation would expand Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries by including the four major settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit, and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements, into the Jerusalem municipality.
The move would significantly increase Jerusalem’s Jewish majority. As expected, it has triggered vehement condemnations from the Palestinians. But the Trump administration has also urged Israel to delay progress on the bill, on the ground that it could undermine planned peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the “ultimate deal” President Trump seeks.
We once again suggest it is time for the U.S. to acknowledge that the longtime pattern of Western forbearance for the Palestinian failure to face the reality of Israel has simply not worked. How could it be otherwise when the Palestinians have been led to believe they will always have interlocutors favorable to them no matter what, and that their recalcitrance risks nothing?
The Trump administration should shelve its objections to the Greater Jerusalem bill and actually urge its passage. It would be a signal to the Palestinians that events are unfolding in real time and that there are consequences to negative choices.