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Palestinians Still Aren’t Ready For Peace


I feel as though my people are asleep at the wheel of history. After 2,000 years of yearning for a return to Jerusalem, we have had a mere 40 years – a tiny nanosecond in historical terms – of renewed sovereignty over our ancient, sacred city, and it is now once again on the negotiating table.

Is there any empirical evidence to suggest that relinquishing land might buy Israel some form of peace? Here we are, two and a half years after the immeasurably painful disengagement from Gaza, and what has been the result of that noble sacrifice for peace? Hardly a day – hardly an eighth of a day to be precise – goes by without Israelis in the town of Sderot being terrorized by the constant barrage of Kassam missiles. (The IDF reports an average of one attack every three hours.)

What would happen if Israel were to withdraw from all of the West Bank, leaving the state just nine miles wide at its narrowest point? Will there be a an onslaught of missiles on the coastal plane, where the bulk of the Israeli population resides?

Land for peace? Not at this time, not at this place, not at this moment – and not until the hearts and minds on both sides of the conflict share in the same objective of peace and coexistence.

And how will we know when the Palestinians are genuinely ready for peace and coexistence? The litmus test will be how they educate their children and what they say to one another in Arabic. Thanks to the advent of the Internet, we have ample facts at our fingertips demonstrating that the Palestinian Authority is failing this test miserably. Palestinian leaders have been using every means of communication possible to incite their people to hate and to kill.

One fundamental obligation of President Bush’s road map peace plan that is constantly overlooked is the obligation of the Palestinian Authority to refrain from inciting violence. It is the most crucial element of the road map because it deals with what exists in the hearts and minds of generations of Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority is not preparing its people and future generations for the president’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and democracy, but for its very antithesis.

Negotiations are not always the stroll in the park we in the West like to believe them to be. They are just as likely to be a walk down a mine-infested field.

Papering over the incitement of the Palestinian Authority will not buy peace from radical Islamic terrorists who despise the West any more than sacrificing Czechoslovakia to the Nazis bought the allies peace prior to World War II.

We know that in the minds of the terrorists, America is the Great Satan and Israel the Little Satan. Every territorial sacrifice we encourage Israel to make simply whets the appetite of radical Islamists for further concessions and feeds their vision of Islamic hegemony.

They see Israel as an Eastern outpost of Western democracy, and they resent us all. They adore humiliating Israel, America and the West in general. It is their belief that they chased the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Marines out of Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon and Gaza – and are chasing the Americans out of Iraq today.

This “land for peace at any price” paradigm not only won’t buy the good will of the Arab world for which we in the West seem to hunger, it will reinforce the Islamist dream of a global Islamic caliphate. It will simply feed the beast. In the wise words of Winston Churchill, “An appeaser feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Again, the only way to determine whether the Palestinians are really ready for peace is to listen what they say – among themselves as well as to the outside world.

In the past few weeks alone, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared that Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; Adnan Husseini, a key adviser to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, said that Palestinian demands include the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site; and in a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, nearly 70 percent of Palestinian adults said they would never waive the so-called right of return (to pre-1967 Israel).

In humor, in relationships, and in foreign policy, timing is everything. I’m hopeful we’ll see the day when Palestinian leaders work to prepare their people for peace. But that day is not today.

About the Author: Sarah Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a Washington-based think tank and policy center.


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