Frustrated by the Palestinian-Israeli impasse, some nations have renewed calls to impose a solution on the parties. Such efforts are deeply misguided. Peace cannot be imposed from the outside but must be forged by those who will implement it. Israel has not given up on negotiations, and has offered to renew them without preconditions. However, Palestinian leadership has turned its back on talks and failed to renounce the ongoing wave of terrorism against the Jewish state. Rather than encouraging Palestinian efforts to isolate Israel and seek achievements in New York or Geneva, the international community should press the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table. There, Israelis and Palestinians can speak directly to each other and make the difficult compromises necessary to create peace. Throughout its history, Israel has demonstrated its commitment to pursuing peace with its neighbors, and has made difficult sacrifices in pursuit of those ends. In 1979, in a historic, unprecedented peace treaty with Egypt, the two parties negotiated Israel’s withdrawal of both armed forces and Jewish residents from the Sinai Peninsula. In 1994, it reached a lasting and meaningful peace with its neighbor Jordan, solving long-standing land and water disputes, and paving the way for tourism and trade. And just as it found peace with these neighbors, so too has Israel demonstrated a deep commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for direct, bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without preconditions, making this appeal a critical element of last fall’s address to the United Nations General Assembly. However, Palestinians have eschewed negotiations. Instead, they have sought to delegitimize Israel and use the international arena to bypass talks. For example, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has sought recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations (UN) and at UN agencies like UNESCO. Simultaneously, he has launched a campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international arena, including at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council. These efforts only impede peace, alienate Israel’s people, and delay Palestinians discussing the compromises they must make to reach peace with Israel. The PA knows full well that no agreement can be realized without Israel’s support, and that the UN route represents only a distraction from the difficult decisions it must make. It should also know that its failure to end incitement and violence against Israel will inhibit progress toward peace and could undermine the authority of the Palestinian leadership. Since September 2015, Palestinian terrorism has left dozens of innocent Israelis dead and hundreds more injured. Security cooperation between the IDF and Palestinian forces has endured, but the Palestinians’ political leadership continues to incite violence. In a Sept. 16, 2015 speech, President Abbas declared, “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.” On Sept. 30, 2015, in front of the United Nations General Assembly, he said he was no longer bound by agreements signed with Israel. Also, he falsely stated that the Israeli government sought to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and used “brutal force to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem.” Abbas has since toned down some of his rhetoric. But his recent actions—such as meeting with the parents of Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israelis and proclaiming “your sons are martyrs”—only encourage terrorism. Furthermore, the PA establishment and the Palestinian media have further incited violence. For example, in mid-January, the PA’s Ministry of Health issued a statement praising Nashat Milhem—who murdered three Israeli civilians—as “one of the most precious martyrs.” On Jan. 17, a 15-year-old Palestinian murdered a mother of six inside her home; he later told the Shin Bet that he decided to carry out the attack after watching Palestinian television. In a disturbing development, PA security personnel have perpetrated three attacks against Israelis over the past two months. And no high-ranking PA leader has condemned this recent wave of violence Ultimately, peace must be made directly between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples if it is ever to be realized. To bring this about, the Palestinian leadership must not only work to end violence, but must promote tolerance and reconciliation. Their demonization of Israelis—in schools, in the Palestinian media and throughout Palestinian discourse—makes the possibility of a meaningful peace only more distant. President Abbas must stop the incitement, return to the negotiating table and make peace with Israel if he ever hopes to achieve Palestinian statehood.
Tags: Near East Report Near-East-Report