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Why hasn’t Israel made peace with the Palestinians?

The problem is, Israel’s not the problem.

If coexistence is the plan, lots of Palestinians haven't got the memo.

If we subscribe to the clichéd adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, our approach to Israel-Palestine is insane.

Since 1967, the world has overwhelmingly operated on the assumption that, in order to find a resolution to the statelessness of Palestinians, pressure needs to be put on Israel.

The failure of this approach — despite its adoption by the United Nations and a host of nongovernmental organizations, European foreign ministers, campus activists and assorted "experts" on the topic — is only seen as reason for redoubling efforts.

The BDS movement is an example. If Israel has not capitulated to the movement's demands, then the answer must be more of the same. If the strategy isn't working, the thinking goes, then we really should double down on it. So we have gone from condemning Israel to boycotting Israeli goods and forbidding Israelis from participating in sporting events, academic forums and all range of international activities. Has this strategy freed Palestine yet? Of course not. The problem is that BDS and the entire Palestinian movement is premised on a false assumption.

The problem is, Israel is not the problem.

We do not need to put pressure on Israel, because Israel has repeatedly offered up everything the Palestinians say they demand.

What the Palestinians and their overseas allies say they demand is not what they actually want. The Palestinians want peace, someone once said, they just don't want it with Israel. The Palestinian movement officially claims to want an free Palestine. Scratch the surface in the slightest and you will find they want a Jew-free Middle East.

The evidence piles upon itself. The Arabs of Palestine were offered self-determination in 1947-’48. Those who spoke on their behalf — the Arab countries in the Middle East — rejected the idea of a Palestinian Arab state because, by definition, it would be born alongside a Jewish state. The Arabs were never prepared to live in coexistence with a Jewish state. In retrospect, people now argue over whether the partition was a fair division of the land. But arguing over borders and the legitimacy of the partition plan is moot. The Arab world rejected both a Jewish and a Palestinian state and sought to militarily eliminate Israel at the moment of its birth.

After the Arab world united for a second time to destroy the Jewish state, in 1967, Israel managed to not only survive but to expand its territory into what had been the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank.

Israeli leaders recognized immediately the challenges presented by being an occupying power in these Arab-majority places. Almost instantaneously, Israel offered to return those lands to the countries they vanquished in exchange for nothing but a promise of peace. The response, at the Khartoum Conference in the summer of 1967, was no, no, no. No peace. No negotiations with the Zionist entity. No recognition of Israel.

You can accuse Israel of all sorts of things, but the reason the Palestinian people are stateless today is the repeated refusal of Arab League, in 1947-'48 and in 1967, to accept coexistence and the Palestinian leadership's refusal to accept any of the several opportunities since.

Again, though: Why? Because what Israel's enemies say they want — a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — it is not what they're truly after.

It makes negotiations difficult when one party does not acknowledge its true end goal. This was the case in the Oslo process, when the Palestinians were offered 97% of what they claimed to seek. At a point when they could have been negotiating final status arrangements, Yasser Arafat instead overthrew the negotiating table and returned to violence. This was not because 97% wasn't enough. It's because 100% would not have been enough. What Arafat sought — and what Hamas explicitly demands and what Fatah, when they are being honest, also acknowledge — is 200%. What they want, as protesters chant across Europe and North America, as well as the Middle East is: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free (of Jews)."

Any naïve belief that the Palestinian movement seeks peaceful coexistence with Israel is silly. There may be some voices in the Palestinian movement who are prepared to live in peaceful coexistence, but it's hard to say how large such a moderate group might be, because to say so too loudly can get one killed. Secondly, and as significantly, there is no evidence whatsoever that an independent Palestine would be anything resembling what a European or North American would recognize as "free."

Yet still, at the United Nations, through the BDS movement, in international forums of every description, people insist that putting pressure on Israel is the solitary means to resolving the Palestinian statelessness and the conflict.

That hasn't worked.

Let's try this: Put pressure on the Palestinians.

Of the kaleidoscopic list of concessions, agreements, gifts and undertakings Israel delivered throughout the Oslo process, the Palestinians were asked for only one, seemingly simple thing.

The Palestinians were asked to stop teaching their children to kill Jews, stop idealizing Jew-murdering "martyrs" and prepare to live in peace with their neighbours. That was all that Palestinians were asked to do in exchange for self-determination.

That one demand was the breaking point of the entire peace process.

So, we can censure Israel at the United Nations. We can boycott it, divest from it, sanction it. We can ban Israeli chess players from international competitions and even ban Israelis' admission into countries based solely on their nationality. We can bring to bear every conceivable pressure, inducement and cajoling, but it will be to no avail. Not because the Israelis don't want peace, but because they have already conceded everything the world demands of them for peace. All that is needed for peace is for the Palestinians to be prepared to accept it.

If overseas “pro-Palestinian” activists actually cared about Palestinians, instead of just hating Israel, they would demand that Palestinian leaders work toward democracy and coexistence. They would demand an end to the corruption that has impoverished the Palestinian people and insist that the billions of dollars poured into Palestine be invested in the sorts of things that could result in Palestinians feeling a sense of hope. They would pressure Palestinian leaders, European foreign ministers, the United Nations and all the assorted people who are barking up the wrong tree, to recognize the real barrier to peace and ensure that the prerequisites to Palestinian national self-determination and civil society are put in place.

Only pressure on the Palestinians themselves can lead to positive results on each of these fronts. Shrieking at Israel isn't working. And it won't work.

Because Israel is not the problem.


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