During the course of his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, President Obama repeated his evenhanded mantra about the Middle East peace process. The short version of it is to say that if you want Israel to survive you also have to support a Palestinian state. Both sides of the conflict have a right to live “in dignity and security” and both sides should be urged to make compromises and accept peace. But the problem with this formulation, which was repeated by many other world leaders at the UN podium, is that it reflects a false moral equivalence between the two sides. That false balance was reflected in the events last weekend that led to the murders of two Israeli soldiers in terrorist incidents.
As the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz wrote yesterday, these were not the acts of isolated extremists trying to undermine the peaceful intentions of Palestinian leaders. Responsibility for one of the murders was taken by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah Party led by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was praised by President Obama for engaging in talks with Israel. The PA condemned neither killing. But even if it did issue some statement of regret, it would be pure hypocrisy since such acts are encouraged every day by the PA’s official media and education system which continues to laud terrorism and to treat murders of Jews and Israelis as the duty of every Palestinian.
Yet neither the Obama administration nor anyone at the UN ever bothers to point out that there is only one side in this contract that devotes its resources to inciting hatred and violence against their antagonists: the Palestinians. Until that imbalance is corrected, all the evenhanded rhetoric heard at the UN or anywhere else will be a waste of time.
Even dedicated peace processors like longtime State Department official Dennis Ross have long acknowledged that the principal failure of those pushing the implementation of the Oslo Accords was their decision to ignore Palestinian incitement. Back in the 1990s, discussions of how the Palestinians were laying the groundwork for a new campaign of terrorism was considered irrelevant or a distraction of the big picture in which Israel was being pressured to make more concessions to satisfy the Palestinians. That fatal mistake was Oslo’s undoing. But 20 years after the ecstatic reaction to the signing on the White House Lawn, President Obama is making the same mistake when he and Secretary of State John Kerry ignore the Palestinian campaign of hate.
Anyone who expects peace talks to succeed or to be meaningful when the same party that is supposedly negotiating with Israel is encouraging its people to treat terrorism against Jews as an act of heroism is deluding themselves. Allowing the PA to get away with saying one thing in English to the Western press and another in Arabic in their official media and school texts is a formula that will ensure that the mistakes of Oslo will be repeated.
The path to peace is not as simple as merely saying both sides have rights–though any formulation that accepts that Israel has rights in the dispute over Jerusalem and the West Bank rather than just security concerns, as Obama indicated, would be an improvement. But what is truly necessary is for the West to make it plain to Abbas and the PA that it cannot go on subsidizing terrorists like the Aqsa Brigades or eulogizing them when murderers are released from Israeli jails at the behest of the U.S. So long as that is the rule, it won’t matter what happens in the talks that Kerry has orchestrated with such great effort. Settlements can be negotiated and, as Israel has shown in the past, surrendered in the hope of real peace (a hope that has so far been disappointed). But the conflict will not end so long as the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim and Arab world think there’s nothing wrong with killing Jews. If President Obama really wants to advance the cause of peace, he should focus on that point the next time he rises to the UN podium.