The Palestinians seem posed — again — not to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity
The Trump peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians is finally released. We haven’t yet read its 181 pages, but neither has the Palestinian leadership and already it has rejected the plan.
What is the Palestinian end game? Why did Abba Eban famously say that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity?
Some chief components of the Trump plan give the Palestinians concessions they never received before, not from Obama, Bush, Clinton or Carter. Perhaps the Palestinian end game is this: Keep rejecting all peace plans until they finally get everything they want.
For all the strenuous denunications of the Trump plan by Palestinian leaders, it offers Palestinians much more than they have ever been offered before. Perhaps this motivates them to keep up the rejectionist posture. Consider:
Under the Trump plan, Palestinians get a state — not a state they value, they say — but it’s still the first time they have been offered a state. Under the Trump plan, they get a capital in East Jerusalem. They don’t get Jerusalem per se, and the city remains the unified capital of Israel, but this is still the first time they have been offered a capital anywhere in Jerusalem. Under the Trump plan, the Palestinians potentially get a “triangle,” a few Arab villages within Israel proper. That has never been offered under any previous plan by a US president, the UN or the EU. The Trump plan also reconfirms Clinton’s idea of land swaps — Israeli land for West Bank settlements — which Yasir Arafat rejected in 2000.
Does continued rejectionism by the Palestinians work in their favor? The reality is just the opposite.
First, absence of peace means continued impoverishment and unemployment of a disproportionate percentage of Palestinians.
Second, absence of peace means, from the Palestinian perspective, continuation of terrorism against Israel, whose retaliations are lethal, targeted and devastating. Rejectionism means violence and war.
Third, absence of peace means that natural Israeli population growth leads to settlement of West Bank territory, rendering a Palestinian state in the form that Palestinians envision it an impossibility. Maybe this should not be the main hole in the Palestinians’ rejectionist argument — maybe poverty and terrorism should count for more — but they don’t. Israeli settlement on empty West Bank land infuriates the Palestinian leadership more than any other Israeli action. And on this score, rejectionism is losing badly. The longer the Palestinians wait to negotiate, the more the map changes. The more they delay, the more truncated their state becomes. Abba Eban’s bon mot is perfect.
One simply cannot escape the conclusion that the real reason Palestinians reject peace plan after peace plan is because they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of a Jewish state anywhere, any size, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
And so, despite the concessions in the Trump plan — plus others, such as economic investment in a Palestinian state and linkages between Gaza and the West Bank — Palestinian leaders claim that they can negotiate peace only via the “international community.” As if, besides UN Security Council resolutions and a boycott of Israeli produce here or there, the “international community” has the power to make peace. Palestinian rejectionism comes down to what it has always come down to: denial of its own destiny and denial of Jewish rights anywhere in the Land of Israel.
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