06 October '16..
A week after Shimon Peres was buried, the tributes for the last of Israel’s founders have ceased, but the vitriol from the Arab world continues. Rather than praise the man who worked harder than any Israeli for coexistence and the creation of a Palestinian state, the Arab and Muslim world still only sees Peres as a Jew and an Israeli, which is to say an enemy to be destroyed no matter what he did or didn’t do. Even those Palestinians who took part in the Oslo peace process that he sponsored are blasting him as a Zionist who didn’t really want peace. Much of this invective is just the sort of typical anti-Semitic slander that has been slung at Israel for several decades. But what’s significant about the groupspeak his death has generated is not that it shows resistance to peacemaking but that it is tied to a revisionist history of the last 25 years that demonstrates why Peres’s Oslo gambit was doomed to fail.
A lot of the attacks on Peres were related to the decision of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to attend the funeral. Abbas was lavishly praised for this by President Obama and much of the West, but he was panned by Palestinians. The problem here is that Abbas’s typical double game in which he speaks one way in English to the West and another in Arabic to his own people was exposed by his presence at the funeral.
Though Abbas was smart to seek Obama’s favor in advance of the next push for an independence resolution at the United Nations, Palestinians viewed the effort as contradicting the nonstop drumbeat of incitement to hatred against Israel and Jews that flows from the official PA media. While Abbas is still interested in being viewed as a peacemaker abroad, he has done nothing to create a constituency for peace at home. The need to compete for popularity with the Islamists of Hamas has actually decreased the already negligible backing for an end to the conflict.
Elsewhere, the problem goes deeper than Abbas’s double dealing. It is to some extent understandable that opponents of Israel see Peres primarily in the context of his work in helping to defend Israel against those who wished to destroy it in his first decades of public life. Israel’s survival against the odds is something for which they do not forgive him or the Jewish state. That he is accused of atrocities such as the shelling of a Lebanese village in an area where terrorists were shooting at Israel is also not surprising, but the hypocrisy of such charges is lost on those making them.
More important than any of that is the impulse on the part of Palestinians and their cheerleaders to chart a revisionist history of Oslo and the peace process. According to Peres’s detractors, like former PA official Hanan Ashrawi, who penned an attack published Monday in the New York Times, the Israeli’s efforts for peace were fraudulent. In her version of the events of the last two decades, Peres was part of an Israeli effort to deny Palestinian rights and choke off their demands for statehood and sovereignty.
Ashrawi’s account is a sad parody of the truth but an accurate reflection of how the Palestinians view the world. In their telling, anything short of complete and total Israeli surrender on territory, settlements, and refugees (which would destroy what was left of Israel after a new partition) and on the Palestinian right to continue to wage war on the Jewish state—whose legitimacy they continue to deny—is an offense for which there is no forgiveness. Left out of the Palestinian narrative is not only PA leader Yasir Arafat’s decision to treat Oslo as merely the first step in a war of phases whose aim was Israel’s destruction, but also Arafat’s funding of terrorism and the subsequent refusals by both the veteran terrorist and his successor Abbas of peace offers that would have given them the state they claim to want.
Contrary to Ashrawi’s narrative, if Peres failed to make the peace he thought was possible, it was not for lack of effort on his part. Rather, it was due to the refusal of the Palestinians to share his dream. Peres’s problem wasn’t so much the skepticism of the Israeli people about Oslo—which understandably increased once they realized they were trading land for terror, not peace—but the fact that there was no moral equivalent to him on the other side. He was fond of saying, you make peace with your enemies, not your friends. What was needed for this formula to work, however, was a former enemy who shares the fantasy of a Middle East in which the century-old war against Zionism is consigned to the dustbin of history. There was no such person on the Palestinian side in the aftermath of Oslo. Nor is there one now.
More to the point, as long as the leading Israeli dreamer of peace is demonized by the Muslim world, the chances of such a leader arising among a Palestinian people indoctrinated with hate remains small. That Peres’s good deeds for the Palestinians are not going unpunished remains the most depressing aspect of the otherwise impressive legacy he left behind.
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