When Barack Obama entered the White House, he promised to make Israeli/Palestinian peacemaking his priority from “day one.” And, indeed, in his own way he did. He pressured Israel into freezing Jewish construction in the West Bank for ten months in a bid to entice the Palestinians to negotiate.
Yet Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority refused negotiations except for a few days near the end of the 10-month period and has not negotiated substantively since.
On its face, this is puzzling. If Abbas and the PA were eager for statehood alongside Israel – as they claim in their official speeches in international forums – nothing would be easier than to agree to negotiations that would lead in that direction, under an American president who has been strongly pushing for this.
But they don’t.
The reason? Lacking a state is less intolerable for the Palestinian movement than accepting the right of Jews to have a state of their own. And indeed, Palestinians turned down statehood on the four occasions detailed plans were proposed to create one – 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008.
The common denominator to these rejections was that these plans all encompassed a Jewish state living alongside it. The leitmotif of Palestinian politics has been the rejection of precisely this proposition.
There are mountains of evidence to establish this proposition, but let’s confine ourselves to merely a recent six-week period.
Demonization of Jews: The PA TV children’s program “The Best Home” that aired on April 22 and again on May 8 featured a child reciting a poem which included the following words: “Our enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail.”
Terrorists glorified: On April 16, the PA publicly mourned the anniversary of the death of PLO arch-terrorist Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad). The PA held six sporting events in his honor and broadcast TV programs celebrating him and his career of terror attacks. WAFA, the official PA news agency, glorified his killing of Israelis and enumerated in detail and with approbation his attacks on Israeli civilian targets in an article that also appeared in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.
An old Wazir speech was exhumed from the archives and rebroadcast, a section of which included the following, “On one street, for example, we will hold 500 people [hostage]…at any moment, he can blow up everyone; blow up their building, or the whole thing, no matter how many people are there.… We want to turn the Tel Aviv day black. We want to turn the Tel Aviv day into destruction, Allah willing.”
On May 31, ninety-one Palestinian terrorists, including many suicide bombers whose corpses were recently handed over by Israel to the PA as a goodwill gesture, were given a military funeral for heroes by the PA. Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other PA dignitaries were in attendance. All the returned terrorists were categorized as shahids (martyrs), thus conferring on them the status of national and religious heroes.
The secretary general of Abbas’s office, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, declared, “We ask Allah to gather you in the uppermost heaven, along with the prophets, the righteous,” while the Mufti of the PA, Muhammad Hussein, said, “By Allah’s will, we still have elite groups of martyrs like these among us.… The souls of the noble martyrs envelop us, and their souls tell us to follow in their path.”
Compromise repudiated: The day before Israel Independence Day, PA TV broadcast a political statement that included the following: ” Let all religions know that I do not make truces, let every person know that I do not compromise.… Let Jaffa [an Israeli city] know that I will return to it.” Clearly, such is the political program and message the PA wishes to transmit to its people.
Muslim supremacism: On May 11, PA TV featured a children’s program in which a young Palestinian girl was asked to recite a poem that includes insults to Christians and Jews (“They are remnants of the [Christian] crusaders and Khaibar [Jews]”; are “inferior and smaller, more cowardly and despised” and the “enemies of destiny”).
These salient themes in the Palestinian public square inform us that Palestinian incitement is a symptom of rejection of Jewish sovereignty, not the absence of peace. In these circumstances, peacemaking is not so much premature as it is foredoomed.
Palestinian attitudes and values must change before the possibility of genuine peace emerges on the horizon. Successive U.S. presidents have ignored this and thereby helped prolong rather than shorten the conflict.
A U.S. policy that devises carrots and sticks to induce Palestinians to relinquish their war on Israel’s continued existence provides the best basis for future, fruitful negotiations.
Until then, we ignore Palestinian incitement at our peril.
Dr. Michael Goldblatt is national chairman of the board of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA); Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East.
About the Author: Dr. Michael Goldblatt is national chairman of the board of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA); Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA's Center for Middle East.
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