My Theory on Middle East Peace
Jewish Times Israel Correspondent
The Arabs cannot abide having a Jewish state in their midst. While it’s true that the Muslim world has sometimes treated Jews better than the Christian world, that behavior was based on the dhimmitude of the Jews. This dhimmi status of infidels (Jews and Christians) segregated them and demeaned them while exorbitantly taxing them. “Infidels” were prevented from exercising their rights such as where to live, what occupation to pursue, etc. In short, dhimmi status wasn’t a condition the Muslims would have accepted for themselves.
The revulsion of Arabs, and Muslims in general, towards Israel is based on a long history of keeping the Jews in their place. Egypt and Jordan, despite their peace treaties with Israel, are nonbelligerent strictly for the money they get from America and for the respite they get from confronting Israel militarily. (That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t join in a wide- spread war against Israel.) In both countries, the elites are totally opposed to “ normalization” with Israel, which means that professionals who dare to cooperate with Israel, or even visit it, face banning from their professional organizations, or worse. Egypt’s government supports a virulent antisemitic campaign in the media against Israel. (Jordan’s government is more restrained because of King Abdullah’s need for Israeli backing.) Turkey, formerly Israel’s only Muslim ally, has now joined the Arabs in confronting Israel at every turn.
Israelis have “progressed” from total opposition to a Palestinian state to advocating one. At times, Israel even seems to beg the Palestinians to make peace, which I believe is a major mistake. For their part, the Palestinians foment hatred against Jews and Israel continuously, even encouraging their children to become suicide bombing martyrs. Most Israelis are not fond of the Palestinians, but there is no program of vilification against them. There is a small but active left-wing “peace camp” in Israel ( including Jews from the Diaspora) which wholeheartedly supports the Palestinians. You can find them demonstrating against Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, and even in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
These Jews believe everything the Palestinians claim and disbelieve whatever Israel’s government declares. They are on the front lines demonstrating weekly against Israel’s security barrier, which has saved many Jewish lives from terror attacks. They even join with the boycotters and other delegitimizers of Israel, giving support to groups like the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) whose aim is to eliminate Israel. While the Palestinian point of view is given lots of space in Israel’s media, you could look high and low in the entire Muslim world and not find any sympathetic treatment of Israel. Nor is there an understanding “ peace movement” in any Muslim country. There are articles supportive of Israel, but only expatriate Arabs dare to publish them.
There will be no peace between Israelis and Palestinians until there is some Palestinian movement towards compromise. They want it ALL while Israel offers to meet somewhere between two extremes. The Palestinians are rejectionists. Their strategy is to reject all offers to keep the situation at the boiling point. They believe, from experience, that the Jews will eventually up their offer and that international pressure will help to ensure it. President Obama gave the Palestinians even more than they expected when he made a major issue of Jewish construction beyond the Green Line (1949 armistice line), especially in Jerusalem. Previously, the Palestinians negotiated despite Jewish building. Now, the complete end to all Jewish construction is a precondition for them to return to direct discussions.
There won’t be an offer better than Chairman Arafat turned down from Prime Minister Barak in 2000. President Abbas was just as intransigent in 2008, when he rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s unprecedented peace offer, which was substantially based on the 1949 armistice line.
Olmert said that he offered the Palestinians a land swap, which would trade vacant Israeli land for Jewish communities beyond the Green Line. He also offered a solution for Jerusalem, where the Jewish part would remain under Israeli authority and the Arab sections would be given to the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state. According to Olmert’s plan, the Temple Mount would be demarcated under the rule of five different states with access available to believers of all religions. (I believe this is an unworkable proposition.) Olmert said that he and Abbas had reached an interim agreement on the Palestinian right of return, but Olmert never received a final response from the Palestinians on the matter.
Israelis have not been indifferent to Palestinian intransigence over ending the conflict. It’s very doubtful that an offer as (over)generous as that advanced by Olmert will be repeated. There won’t be a Palestinian right of return, nor will the Temple Mount be given up. Both of these are non-starters for most Israelis, who continue to favor the center-right government. Nor can more than a half million Jewish residents living beyond the Green Line be ignored. Imagine a unilaterally declared Palestinian state which included all these Jews within its “borders.” Now try to visualize United Nations or some other troops arriving in Israel to evacuate the Jewish communities beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And what about Gaza? Under Hamas rule it opposes a combined State of Palestine, instead aiming for an Islamic Caliphate.
So, until the Palestinians stop trying to eliminate Israel and come to terms with us, there won’t be a viable Palestinian state. If they do get some kind of ersatz state, it will quickly be taken over as an Iranian proxy by Hamas. Unfortunately, more generations may come and go until a solution is found to this dispute, so long as the Arabs refuse to accept the Jewish state, Israel.
Stephen Kramer resided and worked in the Atlantic City area until 1991, when he moved to Israel with his wife, Michal Langweiler, and two sons. He can be reached at Sjk1@jhu.edu.