While there is plenty of blame to go around, we believe too many in the international community are ignoring a fundamental truth about this conflict:
According to a senior American peace negotiator, “Since 2000, there have been three serious negotiations that culminated in offers to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… In each case, a proposal on all the core issues was made to Palestinian leaders and the answer was either “no” or no response… It’s time to stop giving the Palestinians a free pass.”
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In 1920 the League of Nations unanimously recognized the land of Israel, then known by the Roman name ‘Palestine’, as the home of the Jewish people under international law. The Jews are a people indigenous to the area in and around Israel, who were dispossessed and oppressed for 1,900 years across Europe and the Middle East. They were fighting for their right to self-determination in their ancestral home.
The British were given the responsibility to facilitate the return of Jews and rebirth of the Jewish state, while doing nothing to, “prejudice the civil and religious rights” of Arab residents and others. Unfortunately, in 1920 the British empowered a racist extremist named Haj Amin al-Husseini to lead the Palestinian Arabs. Husseini proceeded to organize violent attacks and boycotts against Jews throughout the 1920s and 1930s to kill the local Jews and suppress their liberation movement.
Largely because of the violent intransigence of the Palestinian Arab leadership, a proposal was made to divide the land into two states for two peoples – one for the Jews and one for the Palestinian Arabs. The proposed Jewish state represented only 20% of the land, but the Jewish leadership said yes to it as a basis for negotiations.
Haj Amin al-Husseini and the rest of the Palestinian Arab leadership said no to the peace plan. They refused to accept any form of Jewish independence or self-determination. They continued to incite violence, and a few years later al-Husseini began collaborating with Hitler.
Conflict continued between the Jews, who sought to reestablish a state in their ancestral homeland, and the Palestinian Arab leadership, which opposed this goal. In response, the United Nations proposed another division of the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Roughly 70% of the land proposed as a state for the Jews consisted of the arid Negev Desert, but Jewish leaders said yes, and offered citizenship to Arabs in their territory.
Palestinian and Arab leaders said no and offered no alternative. Two years after the Holocaust ended, they launched a war to wipe out any possibility of a Jewish state. During the 1st phase they laid siege to Jerusalem, nearly starving 100,000 Jews to death and ethnically cleansing the holiest part of the city. Then, in May, 1948 after Israel declared independence, five Arab armies invaded to destroy it.
In 1993 Israelis and Palestinians began peace negotiations by signing a treaty called the Oslo Accords. In 2000, President Bill Clinton brought Israeli and Palestinian leaders together and proposed the creation of a Palestinian state in 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said yes.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said no – a “colossal historic blunder” according to President Clinton. Arafat refused to make a counteroffer and instead launched the 2nd Intifada – a brutal campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks which murdered over 1,000 Israelis, the vast majority of them civilians. Israel responded with checkpoints, a security barrier, and other safety measures. These actions made life more difficult for Palestinians, but were unfortunately needed to dramatically reduced the number of Israeli deaths from terrorism.
In 2002 the Arab League put forward the Arab peace initiative, calling for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem. After initially failing to gain traction, the plan was relaunched in 2007. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed it, with reservations. In September, 2008,Olmert offered a peace agreement giving the Palestinians virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian state. He agreed to divide Jerusalem so that the eastern part of the city could become the Palestinian capital.
In 2014 negotiations began again, facilitated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. While no comprehensive peace deal was put on the table, Kerry did propose a framework agreement on the major issues. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said yes to the framework. Additionally, according to a document leaked to Israeli media, there had been secret negotiations in which Netanyahu offered many concessions.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said no to Kerry’s framework agreement. In April, 2014, Kerry shifted his efforts to focus on extending the deadline for an agreement and keeping Abbas at the negotiating table. Abbas refused, and instead chose to join with the racist terrorist organization Hamas in a unity government.
In January, 2020, the U.S. Administration released a new peace plan, which Palestinian leaders immediately rejected. They refused to negotiate directly with Israel, until finally offering to do so on June 29th, 2020, after immense pressure. Will this time be any different than before?
Unfortunately, some in the international community continue to place most of the blame on Israel. Israeli policies are subject to debate and criticism like in any country, including on the issue of annexing/applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. However, pressuring Israel alone while shielding Palestinian leaders from accountability has proven to be a surefire way to perpetuate the conflict.
A different approach is urgently needed. Isn’t it time for the world to pressure Palestinian leaders to finally say yes to peace?