The Palestinian Authority (PA) has let it be known that its 86-year old leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is prepared to talk to Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, about a “diplomatic horizon” for the Palestinians. No doubt this is prompted by the planned visit of US President Joe Biden to Israel and the PA next week.
That would be a terrible idea.
Start with the fact that Abbas is in poor health, and the wolves are already gathering to pick the bones of his fat carcass (the PA is a money machine for those who are “connected.” Yasser Arafat died with a net worth of more than $4 billion, and Abbas is said to have at least $100 million salted away). There is no reason to think that the dictator who follows will have any reason to live up to any promises Abbas makes. Not that the PA has ever kept any of its promises, starting with the ones made by Arafat in 1993, especially the one about “fighting terrorism:” rather than opposing it, Arafat planned, ordered, and paid for it. As far as we know Abbas has only encouraged terrorism, and paid the salaries of the perpetrators after the fact.
But the main problem with talking to the PA is that there is no coincidence of interests between Israel and the PA. If we draw Venn diagrams of the minimum demands made by the PA and the maximum concessions that Israel could afford to make (and vice versa), the intersections will be empty. There is no “creative” way to solve this problem.
For example, consider Israel’s most basic demand: the PA must stop paying the salaries of terrorists. Most Israelis would see this as a reasonable precondition for negotiations. But Abbas has consistently refused, saying that he would pay “every penny” to the prisoners, even if it meant cutting salaries to PA employees.
Any real peace agreement would also have to include the Palestinians dropping their demand for a “right of return” to Israel for the five million Arabs with refugee status. This too would be unthinkable for them, and is why they have always refused to agree that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state.
There are other issues, like Jerusalem, that don’t have compromise solutions.
Why is this so? Let’s look deeper.
Perhaps the Jews and Arabs of Eretz Yisrael in 1948 could have reached a compromise, if they had been left alone. But that was prevented by the manipulations of Britain, which wished to retain control of the region, and which encouraged the Arabs – both in Palestine and the surrounding Arab nations – to believe that they could have the whole thing for themselves. The Arabs in the region had also absorbed a vicious antisemitism, from Nazi propaganda during the war as well as from German Nazis who fled to the Middle East to avoid prosecution for war crimes.
In the period after the war, and especially starting in the 1960s, the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael became Palestinians. On the advice of the KGB they adopted the identity of a colonized third-world indigenous people fighting for their freedom against European imperialists (the Jews!). Arabs that had first seen themselves primarily as members of their clans living in “southern Syria,” and later, in the days of Nasser, as members of a larger pan-Arab nation, began to think of themselves as connected to the land of “Palestine,” which just happened to be coextensive with Eretz Yisrael. They developed a “Palestinian” narrative: they were the indigenous owners of the land, which was then stolen from them by the Jews.
They developed a unique culture (cult?) based on their dispossession and their hatred of the Jews that they believed had stolen both their birthright and their honor. Their heroes became those who struck back at the Jews as violently as possible. Their music, art, and literature is about their struggle against Israel. Everything bad that has happened to them is blamed on the original great crime committed against them, the Nakba, while their own behavior, no matter how violent or immoral, is justified by it. This fits in neatly with Western post-colonialism, which holds that a colonized people has a right to resist their colonizers by any means.
The PLO was an amalgam of terrorist organizations, originally a tool of the KGB, which was responsible for countless acts of terrorism directly against Israel or in the international arena. In 1982 its leaders – having been pushed out of Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon – were banished to exile in Tunis. But in 1993, Israel, pushed by an Israeli Left and an American president who were naïve about Arafat and the PLO, committed the greatest strategic error in her history and allowed Arafat to set up the Palestinian Authority, taking control of most of the Arab population of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (the PA lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew). He quickly established an educational and media system to indoctrinate his subjects with the antisemitic Palestinian narrative. This succeeded brilliantly, and today Arab youths from the PA have become capable of slaughtering random Jews because they are Jews. And when this happens, they are lionized by the PA media.
If you understand this, you understand that asking the PA to stop paying terrorists, to accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people – and not as stolen Palestinian Arab property – is to ask them to give up their Palestinian identity. What makes them Palestinians and not just Arabs who happen to be in Eretz Yisrael is their opposition to the Jews that dispossessed them, and their righteous struggle to reverse the Nakba.
Their struggle will not end until they succeed in placing all of Eretz Yisrael under Arab sovereignty. It’s often said that the Arabs illogically turned down several offers of statehood. But all of these offers postulated the continued existence of a Jewish state in part of the land; none of them included the “right of return” for the descendants of 1948 Arab refugees that would guarantee the end of the Jewish state and the reversal of the Nakba. There is nothing illogical about their choosing to continue the struggle rather than to give up their identity.
The State of Israel is and always will be in a permanent state of war with the PLO, Hamas, or any other group that sees itself as a Palestinian standard-bearer. The idea of a “two-state solution” – that an additional partition of Eretz Yisrael and the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state can end the conflict – is absurd, because it is based on a complete misunderstanding of Palestinian aspirations.
Joe Biden, or whoever pulls his strings, believes in the two-state idea, whether out of naïveté or anti-Zionism. American policy since 1967 – with the exception of the Trump Administration – has operated to try to weaken Israeli sovereignty in all the areas outside of pre-1967 Israel, including eastern Jerusalem. While the idea of “land for peace” might have borne fruit when the interlocutors were the Arab nations (although the jury is still out on the stability of the peace between Israel and Egypt), it cannot possibly succeed when the supposed “peace partners” are Palestinians, for the reasons discussed above. It’s also essential to note that, like the Golan Heights, the high ground of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley must remain under Israeli control so that Israel can defend herself against attack.
Biden’s visit will certainly include pressure on Israel to make concessions relating to sovereignty in the territories and Jerusalem. Israel should resist the pressure, and also the idea of negotiations with the PA, unless – as will not happen – the PA agrees to stop paying terrorists and indoctrinating its population with the idea that murdering Jews is the highest form of Palestinian patriotism. Rather, Israel should reemphasize the most basic principle of Zionism – Jewish settlement in all of Eretz Yisrael – and act accordingly.