01 January '16..
What can be done with these Americans and Europeans? They always seem pining for a dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would end in a peace agreement, yet oddly all of them seem aware that the Palestinians have not, in all honestly, met Israel's most minimal demands: the cessation of incitement (agreed to even under the Oslo accords -- and requiring no funding!) and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. Many throughout the world still view Israel as potentially the next -- and 22nd -- Arab state.
As hard as it is to say it, the Jews have a point. There is a legitimate concern that without such a stipulation, there will be two Palestinian States: the West Bank and Israel – actually three if you count Gaza.
The Americans and Europeans seem not to realize that, for the Jewish people, the request for a state has to be a precondition for any discussion of Jerusalem, as well, based on its history. Before 1967, when half of Jerusalem was in the hands of Jordan -- what the international community says it wants Israel to go back to -- around 38,000 ancient Jewish headstones were taken from the Mount of Olives cemetery by Arab residents and used to pave latrines.
These good-hearted Americans and other Westerners nevertheless pressure Israel to act as the "responsible adult" and make unilateral gestures of goodwill. They ask the Israelis to withdraw from the occupied territories and to take Jewish residents of the West Bank settlements with them. They seem already to have forgotten what happened just over ten years ago, in the Gaza Strip, when the Israelis did offer a unilateral gesture of good will. The Israelis unilaterally evacuated every meter of Gaza in 2005, so the Palestinians could build a Singapore -- no conditions attached! In return, they were met by Hamas and a nine-year war of rockets. If anyone thinks the Israelis are about to try that again, they have a surprise coming.
As a Palestinian, I welcome the humanistic approach that calls on the strong to cede to the weak; but an honest examination of the issues makes me wonder if Westerners even understand the Middle East. In trying to find a just solution, they keep making every possible mistake. First, they keep demanding from the Israelis concessions that would undermine the country's security -- and they do not demand from the Palestinians so much as a statement, such as "Israel has the right to exist."
Westerners, it seems, want to frighten Israel into making concessions. What seems to have been forgotten is that under UN Security Council Resolution 242, the territories would be occupied until the dispute is settled. Now, that makes a nice game of rope-a-dope: You never end the dispute, so the territory stays occupied, then you blame the other side for occupying you! Even we can see that.
The Westerners' latest good-hearted demand -- so devastating to the employment situation for Palestinians -- is to label goods from the occupied territories. This requirement is asked of no other occupying nation: not Russia in Crimea and Ukraine, Turkey in Cyrus, Pakistan in Kashmir, nor China in Tibet. It is basically a form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), presumably intended to crush Israel economically.
What these good-hearted Westerners fail to see is that their threats only strengthen Israel's perception of danger, and end up creating a result that is the opposite of what the Europeans intended. Instead of bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, such a move understandably strengthens Israel's resolve to protect itself. But exerting pressure on Israelis will not induce them to commit collective suicide. Rather, it will make both the Israelis and Palestinians more intransigent than ever.
The American threat of Israel turning into a binational state is meant to frighten Israel into waiving its vital interests while getting nothing from the Palestinians in return. In reality, the threat just stiffens the Palestinians' resolve and keeps our leaders from granting even the least of Israel's demands. The American threat is an obstacle to peace.
Most of all, what, staggeringly, Westerners do not seem to understand, is that the aim of the current incitement and attacks by the Palestinian Authority (PA) comes from a desire to replace Israel with a Palestinian state.
Look for a minute at the Palestinian Authority. In the Middle East, sooner or later, anything that can collapse, collapses -- regardless of efforts to shore it up. The Israelis, all too experienced in such matters, are understandably not about to cast their lot with the PA's current leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The death rattle of his regime gets louder every week, as even Westerners can surely see. So if the PA can expire at any time, how can anyone even think of asking the Israelis to place their future in Abbas's trembling hands? Do Westerners seriously mean for the Israelis to give up their security in return for the empty promises of a regime a few faltering steps from implosion?
Unfortunately, the Israelis already know -- again from history -- that so far, at least, Palestinian promises are not worth an old shoe. Again, just as one example, in the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians signed an agreement no longer to use terrorism to advance political aims.
Mahmoud Abbas may serve as the President of Palestine, but whom does he represent? He certainly does not represent the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and anyplace else there are Palestinians. He does not even represent the Palestinians in his own West Bank. Broad swaths of Palestinians in the West Bank no longer consider Abbas their lawful representative. His term of office ended years ago; he is now in the eleventh year of his four-year term. I can promise to sell you that that olive tree over there, but what do I do if it is not my olive tree to sell? He cannot truthfully promise anything to anyone.
The Palestinians in Gaza also reject the legality of Abbas's reign. They support Hamas. Not only that, but in the West Bank, supporters of Hamas make up roughly half of the population. Their goal is to destroy the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas along with it.
Israelis therefore regard the Palestinian president as terminally ill, on life support -- also known as the Israeli security forces, Israeli economic support and Western handouts.
Despite relying totally on this charity, Abbas's position is so weak that to remain in power, he needs to pander to his opponents, to the "resistance front" and the Islamist terrorist organizations in the Palestinian camp. He therefore claims he wants to reach a peace agreement with Israel and that "Palestinian hands are extended in peace;" but at the same time he relentlessly attacks Israel on the international front, in UN agencies and in the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, he and his henchmen incite the Palestinians to stab, run over and shoot Israelis to death, while he idealizes, glorifies and finances -- with the funds he receives from the West -- the terrorist "shaheeds" [martyrs] and their families.
Hamas and ISIS at least tell the truth. They openly and repeatedly declare their intentions to destroy "infidel" places such as Israel and Rome -- the same way Islam conquered the former seat of Christianity, Constantinople. Mahmoud Abbas, by contrast, is a merely a cowardly hypocrite who successfully dupes the world by talking peace while inciting terror.
If an Islamist terrorist organization does take control of the Palestinian Authority, it will actually make life far easier for Israel. Israel will be able to explain its security position to the world and fight terrorism in the occupied territories -- without having to negotiate, make concessions or beg the Palestinians for recognition.
There are some Israelis who worry about the possible fall of Mahmoud Abbas and a radical Islamist takeover of the West Bank. But no Western country will support the establishment of an Islamic emirate in the West Bank. The Islamists will kill the Palestinian Authority's leaders, the same way Hamas did in 2006-2007 in Gaza. And as usual, only the Palestinians will suffer.
The only people rightly frightened by the thought of a Hamas or ISIS takeover of the West Bank are Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah loyalists. The Palestinian leadership will be summarily executed and their ill-gotten gains confiscated.
The Palestinian people, on the other hand, already almost totally radicalized, and do not seem even slightly concerned about living under an Islamist regime run by Hamas or Islamic State. They are Muslims: many feel it will make them more pure.
The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not only a matter of semantics that could change over time. It is a deep-seated ideology that will never change; it is part and parcel of the militant Palestinian-Islamist perception that the Jews are a religious sect -- not a nation -- and therefore not deserving of sovereignty, a homeland or nationhood.
The Palestinians, like other Muslims all over the world, believe that any land once conquered by Islam becomes part of the waqf, Islam's religious endowment, owned by Islam in perpetuity. This includes the land of Palestine and Israel, and means that the Jews have no right to exist on even one speck of it.
Our leaders know that recognition of the Jewish state would mean relinquishing the "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel, and instead settling them only in the future Palestinian state. They simply cannot agree to that.
Every Palestinian knows in his heart that we do not want a state of our own alongside Israel, but rather instead of Israel. Palestinians have not relinquished, and will not relinquish, the right of return; deep down, they hope it will lead to Israel's demographic extinction and, on its ruins, the establishment of a State of Palestine.
The Jews living in the Middle East understand Middle Eastern dynamics and the challenge of maintaining an independent, democratic state in a region beset by chaos and internecine conflict. They know that anyone who blinks is perceived as weak, and that any blink is perceived by an adversary as an open door.
Despite the threats from the West, the Israelis do not seem particularly shaken. Israel has opened vast new markets in the Far East and appear to be doing brilliantly. Demographically, the number of Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is rising.
What our past-the-expiry-date leaders have failed to grasp is that the Israelis have set a trap for us: they are building their plans on the foundation of our intransigence. Our leaders are only encouraged by the false hopes and unreasonable expectations given them by the good-hearted Westerners.
Their intentions may even be good, but they persistently refuse to see that our leaders simply do not have the will, the courage or the ability to deliver so much as a dish full of mud. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership prefer to leave things as they are rather than be denounced as traitors by their people for sitting with Israelis at a negotiating table.
Abbas knows -- as many of the leaders in Europe apparently do not -- that without Israel's presence in the West Bank, Hamas and Islamic State would execute him, along with his aides, in a public square tomorrow.
Abbas does not want to return to negotiations with the Israelis because he knows has absolutely nothing to offer. His main goal is now, with the help of the international community, to impose a solution on Israel. The solution he seeks -- a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines -- would pose an existential threat to Israel. It would also just be a matter of time before the Palestinian state will be run by Hamas or Islamic State.
We thank these good-hearted Westerners for all their good intentions. But they are causing suffering to everyone and accomplishing nothing. Our wish for the New Year is, please, for these good-hearted Westerners good-heartedly to stop.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East
 On the Mount of Olives, the Jordanian Arabs removed 38,000 tombstones from the ancient cemetery and used them as paving stones for roads and as construction material in Jordanian Army camps, including use in latrines. When the area was recaptured by Israel in 1967, graves were found open with the bones scattered. Parts of the cemetery were converted into parking lots and a gas station, and an asphalt road was built through it.
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