Commentary Magazine


Topic: Really Want

Re: What the Palestinians Really Want

In his post on Friday, Rick correctly identified the myth that has foiled every peace-making effort for decades: namely, that the Palestinians actually want a state.

To understand just how untenable this myth is, it’s worth comparing Palestinian behavior with that of the Jews in 1947. The UN Partition Plan proposed that year gave the Jewish state only 12 percent of the territory originally allotted to it under the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, and only 56 percent of what remained after Britain tore away 78 percent of the original territory to create Transjordan (today’s Jordan). Moreover, it excluded Jerusalem, the focus of Jewish national and religious longing throughout 2,000 years of exile. And its borders were completely indefensible, as the plan’s map shows.

Nevertheless, the pre-state Jewish leadership accepted it. Why? Because two years after the Holocaust — which not only proved the dangers of not having a state, but left hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors as stateless refugees in desperate need of a home — this leadership believed any state, even one so badly flawed, was better than none. Only a state could resettle the survivors and allow them to rebuild their lives; only a state could make “never again” a reality rather than an empty slogan.

The Palestinians, according to their own universally accepted narrative, are in a similar situation today. For 42 years, according to this narrative, millions of them have lived under brutal occupation. For 61 years, millions more have lived in squalid refugee camps, with no hope and no future. Only statehood can end these evils.

Under these circumstances, one would expect Palestinian leaders to jump at any offered state, however flawed, that would end the occupation and enable them to rehabilitate their refugees. Instead, they have repeatedly rejected statehood offers.

Moreover, they did not merely reject ridiculously inadequate offers like the one the Jews nevertheless accepted in 1947. They rejected offers equivalent to 95 and even 100 percent (the Clinton and Olmert plans, respectively) of the territory they ostensibly want, including most of east Jerusalem and even the Temple Mount. In short, they rejected everything they could possibly get under any formula leading to a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one.

And that is the problem — as becomes clear upon examining why the Palestinians repeatedly rejected such offers. First, Palestinians refused to abandon their demand that the refugees be resettled not in the Palestinian state, but in the Jewish one — thereby effectively eradicating the latter. They also refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They even refused to acknowledge any historical Jewish connection to this land, and especially to the Temple Mount — though they would have controlled the Mount in practice.

In short, what the Palestinians really want is not a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one; if they did, they could have one at any time. What they want is a Palestinian state instead of the Jewish one. And until that changes, Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain a mirage.

In his post on Friday, Rick correctly identified the myth that has foiled every peace-making effort for decades: namely, that the Palestinians actually want a state.

To understand just how untenable this myth is, it’s worth comparing Palestinian behavior with that of the Jews in 1947. The UN Partition Plan proposed that year gave the Jewish state only 12 percent of the territory originally allotted to it under the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, and only 56 percent of what remained after Britain tore away 78 percent of the original territory to create Transjordan (today’s Jordan). Moreover, it excluded Jerusalem, the focus of Jewish national and religious longing throughout 2,000 years of exile. And its borders were completely indefensible, as the plan’s map shows.

Nevertheless, the pre-state Jewish leadership accepted it. Why? Because two years after the Holocaust — which not only proved the dangers of not having a state, but left hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors as stateless refugees in desperate need of a home — this leadership believed any state, even one so badly flawed, was better than none. Only a state could resettle the survivors and allow them to rebuild their lives; only a state could make “never again” a reality rather than an empty slogan.

The Palestinians, according to their own universally accepted narrative, are in a similar situation today. For 42 years, according to this narrative, millions of them have lived under brutal occupation. For 61 years, millions more have lived in squalid refugee camps, with no hope and no future. Only statehood can end these evils.

Under these circumstances, one would expect Palestinian leaders to jump at any offered state, however flawed, that would end the occupation and enable them to rehabilitate their refugees. Instead, they have repeatedly rejected statehood offers.

Moreover, they did not merely reject ridiculously inadequate offers like the one the Jews nevertheless accepted in 1947. They rejected offers equivalent to 95 and even 100 percent (the Clinton and Olmert plans, respectively) of the territory they ostensibly want, including most of east Jerusalem and even the Temple Mount. In short, they rejected everything they could possibly get under any formula leading to a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one.

And that is the problem — as becomes clear upon examining why the Palestinians repeatedly rejected such offers. First, Palestinians refused to abandon their demand that the refugees be resettled not in the Palestinian state, but in the Jewish one — thereby effectively eradicating the latter. They also refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They even refused to acknowledge any historical Jewish connection to this land, and especially to the Temple Mount — though they would have controlled the Mount in practice.

In short, what the Palestinians really want is not a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one; if they did, they could have one at any time. What they want is a Palestinian state instead of the Jewish one. And until that changes, Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain a mirage.

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