I never thought I would concur with anything written by veteran Israeli “peace” activist Uri Avnery, but I find myself in full agreement with his recent prognosis that “sheer stupidity plays a major role in the history of nations” and that the longstanding rejection of the two-state solution has been nothing short of grand idiocy.
But it is here that our consensus ends. For rather than look at the historical record of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and draw the self-evident conclusions, Avnery retreats into the counterfactual fantasyland in which he has been living for decades. “When I pointed this out [i.e., the two-state solution], right after the 1948 war,” he writes, “I was more or less alone. Now this is a worldwide consensus, everywhere except in Israel.”
Ignoring the vainglorious (mis)appropriation of the two-state solution by the then 25-year-old Avnery, this assertion is not only unfounded but the inverse of the truth. Far from being averse to the idea, the Zionist leadership accepted the two-state solution as early as 1937 when it was first raised by a British commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel.
And while this acceptance was somewhat half-hearted given that the proposed Jewish state occupied a mere 15% of the mandate territory west of the Jordan river, it was the Zionist leadership that 10 years later spearheaded the international campaign for the two-state solution that culminated in the UN partition resolution of November 1947.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Is Mahmoud Abbas, like Yasser Arafat before him, stalling the peace process out of fear that no agreement would be sufficiently maximizing? By now he should have learned that the best deals are those signed with confidence, in mutual trust and good will; and that he stands to gain a great deal through constructive action rather than destructive antics. Those who lead know that decisive journeys start with a risky first step.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s erratic moods make his purported pursuit of a “just and durable peace” with Israel more suspect than ever. The Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio has been allowed to fester for decades by a PA reluctant to resolve matters either directly with Israel or with the help of the US or the Quartet.
Following the recent murder on the Temple Mount of two Israeli policemen by Israeli Arabs who had smuggled lethal weapons into the al-Aqsa Mosque, Abbas chose to “freeze” relations with Israel rather than swiftly arrange tripartite consultations with Israel and the Waqf. In so doing, he acted in concert with the Arab League’s warnings about “red lines” and in unison with the incendiary declarations of the OIC’s current term chairman, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who ordered the “umma” worldwide not only to pray in Jerusalem, but to “protect” it.
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The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip may be at war with each other, but the two rival parties seem to be in agreement over one issue: silencing and intimidating their critics. Of course, this does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the undemocratic nature of the PA and Hamas.
Under the regimes of the PA and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules of the game are different. Such criticism is considered a “crime” and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.
This, of course, is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting from their leaders. After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent.
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Every time a horrendous terrorist attack victimizes innocent victims we wring our hands and promise to increase security and take other necessary preventive measures. But we fail to recognize how friends and allies play such an important role in encouraging, incentivizing, and inciting terrorism.
If we are to have any chance of reducing terrorism, we must get to its root cause. It is not poverty, disenfranchisement, despair or any of the other abuse excuses offered to explain, if not to justify, terrorism as an act of desperation. It is anything but. Many terrorists, such as those who participated in the 9/11 attacks, were educated, well-off, mobile and even successful. They made a rational cost-benefit decision to murder innocent civilians for one simple reason: they believe that terrorism works.
And tragically they are right. The international community has rewarded terrorism while punishing those who try to fight it by reasonable means. It all began with a decision by Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian terrorist groups to employ the tactic of terrorism as a primary means of bringing the Palestinian issue to the forefront of world concern. Based on the merits and demerits of the Palestinian case, it does not deserve this stature. The treatment of the Tibetans by China, the Kurds by most of the Arab world, and the people of Chechen by Russia has been or at least as bad. But their response to grievances has been largely ignored by the international community and the media because they mostly sought remedies within the law rather than through terrorism.
The Palestinian situation has been different. The hijacking of airplanes, the murders of Olympic athletes at Munich, the killing of Israeli children at Ma’alot, and the many other terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists has elevated their cause above all other causes in the human rights community. Although the Palestinians have not yet gotten a state – because they twice rejected generous offers of statehood – their cause still dominates the United Nations and numerous human rights groups.
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Eight years from now, China will outstrip the US as the world’s largest economy. In three years, Israeli GDP per capita will outstrip Japan’s. These two data points are useful to bear in mind as we consider the Trump administration’s sudden decision to go retro and embrace the Clinton administration’s foreign policy on Israel from the early 1990s.
When then US president Bill Clinton decided to embrace Yasser Arafat, the architect of modern terrorism, it seemed like a safe bet.
The US had just won the Cold War. With the demise of the Soviet Union, US dominance in the Middle East was unquestioned. Even then Syrian president Hafez Assad provided symbolic support for the US-led war against his Baathist counterpart Saddam Hussein.
Assad had no choice. His Soviet protector had just disappeared.
The PLO, for its part, had never been weaker. The Gulf states reacted to Arafat’s support for Saddam in the 1991 war by cutting the PLO off financially. The Palestinian uprising against Israel, which broke out in 1988, sputtered into oblivion in late 1990 because without Arab money, Arafat and his cronies couldn’t pay anyone to attack Israelis.
As for the Arabs, operating under the US’s protective shield, in 1993 the Arab world appeared impermeable to internal pressure. No one imagined that Arab nationalism or the reign of presidents for life, kings and emirs would ever be questioned.
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