For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
The US president's intention to bridge the divide between Israel and Palestine is bound to fail
Benny Morris The Guardian 11 September 09
President Obama's efforts to revive the Middle East peace process are bound to fail because of the unbridgeable divide separating Israel's and Palestine's political goals. The minor problems are Israeli prime ministerBinyamin Netanyahu's unwillingness to partition Jerusalem and enable the Palestinians to constitute the eastern half of the city as their capital, and his reluctance to freeze the settlement enterprise in the West Bank. The major problem is that the two-headed Palestinian national movement is averse to sharing Palestine with the Jews and endorsing a solution based on two states for two peoples.
Hamas, which won the Palestinian national elections in 2006, says so bluntly. Its charter of 1988 explicitly calls for Israel's destruction and assures the believers that "Islam will destroy Israel". It repeatedly compares Israel to the medieval crusader kingdoms and states that its end will be identical. (This comparison, incidentally, has been a constant in Arab discourse on Zionism. In September 1947, the Arab League's secretary general, Abdul Rahman Azzam, told Zionist emissaries: "Centuries ago, the crusaders established themselves in our midst against our will, and in 200 years we ejected them.")
Fatah too has a constitution, never revised since the 1960s, which advocates Israel's destruction. During the 1990s, Fatah – then the leading component of the Palestinian national movement – agreed in negotiations with Israel to produce a revised Palestinian National Charterthat deleted the clauses calling for Israel's destruction. No such revised charter was ever produced, though these clauses were ostensibly revoked by a gathering of Palestinian notables in Gaza in 1998.
Fatah's head, the president of the Palestine National Authority,Mahmoud Abbas, in effect continues to promote the same rejectionist message. He publicly hails, to propitiate Washington, "the two-state solution", but when pressed declines to endorse it. Yes, one state for Palestinian Arabs and another for whoever lives in Israel, but not a "Jewish state". He seems to be hoping that Israel's 20% Arab minority, with birth rates double those of the Jews, will overtake the Jews demographically; or that Israel will accede to Palestinian demands to allow the return of refugees. There are around five million refugees (nine-tenths are the descendants of the 1948 refugees). Israel has 5.5 million Jewish citizens. A mass repatriation coupled with the incumbent Arabs would turn Israel instantly into an Arab-majority state. Hence Abbas's unwillingness to recognise Israel as a "Jewish state".
The Jewish national movement, Zionism, and the Palestinian Arabs' national movement enjoyed common starting points but, over time, followed radically different trajectories. Both initially sought to establish a state of their own over all Palestine. This was the Zionists' aim from the movement's inception in the early 1880s until the late 1930s. All of Palestine, the ancient land of Israel, rightfully would be theirs.
But the Arab revolt of 1936-39 and the resurgence of antisemitism in Europe persuaded the Zionist leaders that they would have to make do with only part of Palestine. They accepted, in principle, the 1937 Peel commission partition proposal and, a decade later, the UN General Assembly partition resolution; thus, since the 1990s, they have reaffirmed the principle of two states for two peoples.
But from the beginning, the Palestinian national movement saw the struggle as a zero-sum game. As Palestinian notables told the King-Crane commission in 1919, "We will push the Zionists into the sea, or they will send us back into the desert"; there could be no partition.
This was to be the stance of the Palestinian national movement's first major leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and of its second, Yasser Arafat. (His only concession to the realities of power was that Israel would have to be destroyed not in one fell swoop but in stages.) And this remains the goal to this day. The rejection of Israel as "a Jewish state" and the unwavering insistence on the refugee "right of return" are the "tells".
Obama will press Netanyahu on settlements and achieve some sort of freeze. But once the negotiations begin, the issue of Jerusalem will loudly surface. And then the refugees. And Israel will insist that Abbas – who does not represent Hamas and perhaps only a minority of Palestinians – accept the Clinton-Barak formulation of an "end to the conflict" and an "end to all claims". And Abbas will demand Israeli acceptance of the "right of return" – the demographic battering ram designed to subvert Israel's Jewish character and existence. And the talks will founder, possibly followed by a new round of violence.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"