A guest post by Elan Miller, who blogs at Destination Israel.
Over the last few weeks and months, a spurious lie has been spreading. Nothing new, perhaps, lies are told the whole time. But this one is a particularly important lie, and it needs quashing with immediate effect.
The lie goes as follows. The Palestinian people want to live in peace. They want to live in peace, alongside Israel. They want to live in peace, alongside Israel, the Jewish state. They want to live in peace, alongside Israel, the Jewish state, but Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is an extremist and prevents them from doing so. Benjamin Netanyahu and his cohorts, the lie goes, are the sole reason why the peace process appears to be dead in the water.
To understand the claim better, we must go back some time. Earlier this year, Wikileaks collaborated with the Guardian to reveal hundreds of secret documents online. The Guardian went through the archives and found an astonishing incident. In an article entitled, “Israel spurned Palestinian offer of ‘biggest Yerushalayim in history”, we are told that “Leaked papers reveal [Palestinian] negotiators proposed concessions on East Jerusalem settlements, Sheikh Jarrah and Old City holy sites” and that Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat said the following: “It is no secret that … we are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew word for Jerusalem] in history.” The Guardian had a field day with this quote, using it as proof that the Palestinians were ready to make mass concessions. What was not mentioned in the headline, or in the analysis articles, was that Erekat went on to say, “But we must talk about the concept of al-Quds [Jerusalem in Arabic].”
The Guardian is quick to inform us that an “unprecedented offer” was made “on the East Jerusalem settlements”, carefully picking and mixing quotes that painted a story of Palestinian negotiators adopting a conciliatory approach, going so far as to propose “that Israel annex all Jewish settlements in Jerusalem except Har Homa.” Put like this, it sounded very much like the Israelis were acting unreasonably, wantonly even.
In the ensuing debacle, Israel was roundly criticised for deliberately missing an opportunity to forge a real, lasting peace with the Palestinians. Had this been the end of the story, I would no doubt have not been writing about Palestinian lies, but about Israeli ones.
But the story does not end there. There is much that the Guardian neglected tell us in its editorials or headlines. For while Israel was indeed offered concessions by Palestinian negotiators, they were rendered obsolete and utterly invalidated when placed in the context of the greater plan put forward. Deep in the article, toward the end, we are told that Israel’s negotiator, was “recorded as dismissing the offer out of hand because the Palestinians had refused to concede Har Homa, as well as the settlements at Ma’ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, and Ariel, deeper in the West Bank.” Intriguingly, we are told that “Israel’s position was fully supported by the Bush administration.” Whatever one might say about the Bush administration, is worthy of note that the Israeli position was fully supported. No reservations were expressed. It was clear as day to the Americans that an offer on Jerusalem offset by a situation in which Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel would have to be ceded by the Israelis to Palestinian control was wholly unacceptable.
Not only this, but we might bear in mind recent statements made by Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the U.S., who said that the future Palestine should be free of Jews. After the firestorm that followed, Areikat then incriminated himself further when reiterating his position to the left-leaning Huffington Post stating that “Israeli soldiers and settlers — ‘persons who are amid an occupation, who are in my land illegally’ — would be rejected from the new Palestinian state.” So, not only would Israel have to give Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim over to the Palestinians, but in excess of 56,000 people would be forcibly ejected from their homes and compelled to find a new place to live. Is it any wonder that Israel rejected such a proposition? The peace process is dead in the water, but not for lack of Israel trying. It is dead in the water because the Palestinian leadership has led us so far up a futile and fruitless path that there is nowhere else to turn but to yet more ridiculous measures. By acting like a petulant child, not only is the Palestinian leadership dismissing Israel’s concerns and requirements, but it is effectively sabotaging the demands and needs of its own people, too.
For almost two decades now, there has been an implicit understanding that negotiations will take place based on the cease-fire line of 1949 commonly known as the “1967 borders”. This line was never intended to constitute a border. How it came to be regarded as sacred has been one of the greatest deceptions of our time. So when President Obama states that Israel will need to find a solution based on this line, this is a massive break with previous agreements and understandings. Instead of focusing on the abominable racial incitement and insidious accusations of land theft being propagated by the Palestinians, a blind eye is turn to such indiscretions and the heat is turned on Israel for having the gall to demand that tens of thousands of people not be uprooted from their homes.
It is revealing that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saw fit to select Latifa Abu Hmeid, the mother of several terrorists involved in multiple attacks on Israeli civilians, to be the ambassador for the Palestinian independence bid. Abbas might be a moderate relative to his predecessor Yassir Arafat, but there can be no doubt that he is absolutely not moderate. In choosing such a person to endorse the bid, we are told everything we need to know about his vision and aspirations.
It would be bad enough if this was an aberration from the norm. But it’s not. Previously, Abbas has overseen the dedication of a town square near Ramallah to another Palestinian national icon, Dalal Al Mughrabi, the terrorist who killed 37 people, including 13 children, after hijacking an Israeli bus in 1979. At least two schools and numerous summer camps are amongst the recipients of having the dubious honour of being named after this murderer. Such are the heroes of the Palestinian people.
Even more disturbingly, you might have missed such enthralling television as this, in which little children are shown dressing up as suicide bombers and clutching mock AK-47 rifles. Similarly, another odious clip depicts a little girl facing the screen telling viewers that Israel “stole” all the land, and “changed the names”. It’s bad enough that the current generation make unreasonable demands of Israel. Much, much worse is that the current generation are being indoctrinated before our eyes, being led to believe that Israel – in its totality – has no right to exist at all.
So. Do the Palestinian people want to live in peace? To be fair, I imagine the answer is that many do. Most people in the world do. But do the Palestinian people want to live peace alongside Israel? Well, no, not if repeated attempts to portray the residents of Tel Aviv, Haifa, west Jerusalem and other internationally undisputed Israel-controlled areas as land thieves and aliens are anything to go by. As long as the entire Jewish state is repeatedly deemed illegal and a travesty of justice, then it follows that the Palestinians are not prepared to accept an Israeli state alongside it. As long as such agitation reigns unchecked, what hope is there for peace?
It would take someone with all the vision of a Cyclops to believe that Netanyahu is responsible for Abbas’s endorsement and glorification of terror and his subsequent refusal to engage in negotiations. Benjamin Netanyahu’s fault? Israel wilfully spurning opportunities to make peace? Palestinians forced to a final resort? Hardly. Don’t believe the lie, no matter how many times you hear it.