As Jonathan correctly noted yesterday, one of the many reasons why 84 percent of Israeli Jews oppose today’s planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners is that it will actually undermine prospects for peace. Watching the Palestinian government and public lionize these vicious killers of elderly Holocaust survivors, do-gooders seeking to promote Palestinian business development, old men on park benches and innocent bus passengers does nothing to persuade Israelis that Palestinians want peace; neither do the Palestinian Authority’s predictable complaints about the inadequacy of this concession, or its public assertion that these prisoners are all “political prisoners”–i.e., that deliberately murdering innocent civilians is a legitimate political tactic to which Israel has no right to object.
But while the prisoner release is uniquely counterproductive, the truth is that most Israeli Jews would have opposed any concession aimed merely at getting Palestinians to the table–fully 69 percent, according to one June poll. This fact reflects a much broader problem with the “peace process”: Israelis are tired of a process that consists solely of an endless stream of Israeli concessions, with Palestinians never being asked to give anything in exchange.
The current talks are a case in point. To launch them, Israel agreed to release 104 vicious murderers in four stages–an incredibly painful concession. And what did the Palestinians give in exchange? They certainly haven’t ceased anti-Israel incitement, which leading human rights expert Prof. Irwin Cotler described just last week as “far worse than checkpoints”; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu detailed numerous recent examples of such incitement in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday. Nor did they agree to let Israel continue building in areas that every peace plan ever proposed has concluded will remain Israeli; they’re threatening to boycott tomorrow’s planned negotiating session over Israeli plans for 1,200 desperately needed new housing units in huge Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.
In fact, Palestinians made exactly one “concession” in exchange for the talks: They agreed to show up without an Israeli commitment to accept all their territorial demands before negotiations even began (though they claim the U.S. did promise to support those demands). In other words, their one “concession” was agreeing to negotiate at all. Given that Palestinians claim to want a state on lands only Israel can give them, it’s hard to understand why Israel should be expected to bribe them merely to embark on talks aimed at satisfying that desire. Yet that has been the norm ever since the “peace process” began in 1993.
Over the last 20 years, Israel has released thousands of Palestinian terrorists, withdrawn from all of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, dismantled dozens of settlements, and thrown thousands of Jewish families out of their homes. In exchange, it has gotten nonstop rocket fire from Gaza, vicious terrorism from the West Bank (the second intifada) that caused more Israeli casualties in four years than all the terrorism of the preceding 53 years combined, and an intensifying campaign of international delegitimization.
A process in which one side does all the giving and the other all the taking has little chance of ever producing peace. Israelis intuitively understand this, even if their leaders seem unable to resist international pressure to continue this travesty. The question is when the rest of the world will finally grasp this obvious truth.