The Palestinian "But???


Fox News linked to their write-up on the President’s U.N. speech with, “Obama: Palestinians Deserve Own State, But…

The Palestinian “but” is an interesting conjunction.  The way Obama, and many other world leaders, deploy this conjunction leads to a deeply flawed understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian “impasse.”  Here’s how Fox summed up the President’s position:

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, the president restated his belief that the Palestinians deserve their own state but said a vote at the United Nations is not the way to achieve it. 

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” said Obama, who at the same forum a year ago called for an independent Palestine. 

He said the decades-old impasse will be resolved only by “negotiated settlement,” something he said could not happen until “each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes.”

Obama, while stating the vision of Palestinian statehood has been delayed for “too long,” used his address to assure Israel that his administration empathizes with its concerns and will stand by the Jewish state. 

Let us be honest with ourselves. Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it,” Obama said. While Palestinians must know the territorial basis for their state, he said, the Israelis have be assured of their security. 

(Emphasis mine.)  Why should we only be honest with ourselves about Israel’s geography, and the unfortunate history of tension with its predatory neighbors?  Obama would profit from a little honesty about the Palestinians themselves.

The statehood question, as Obama phrases it, says “Palestinians unquestionably deserve a state, but they need to reach an agreement Israel can live with.”  Statehood is a given – the details just need to be worked out.  The “but” attaches some weak conditions, including some demands on Israel, to a foregone conclusion.

Instead, the state hood question should be put like this: “If the Palestinians demonstrate they are ready to live as peaceful neighbors, then statehood negotiations can proceed in good faith.”  Minimal requirements expected of the Palestinians should include a sustained absence of violent terror attacks, a firm and unqualified denunciation of violence by all parties to the Palestinian government, and a firm declaration of Israel’s right to exist – one that runs from official government proclamations to the contents of Palestinian school textbooks.

Here, for example, is how Palestinian Media Watch describes the current state of Palestinian education regarding their Israeli “partners in peace:”

The following description of Israel’s founding in a Palestinian schoolbook represents the dominant dogma about Israel:

“Palestine’s war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine … and established the State of Israel.” 
[Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p. 104]

This official PA map of “Palestine,” depicting Palestinian rule over all of Israel, was used in an official PA TV public service ad that ran daily for 3 months, Oct. – Dec. 2007. Similar maps presenting all of Israel as “Palestine” appear in Palestinian schoolbooks and are shown regularly on PATV.

The Israelis are being asked to give a state to people who refuse to formally and unconditionally recognize Israel’s right to have one.  The very fact that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is feverishly working to get his U.N. vote on statehood is a denial of Israeli sovereignty.  He obviously doesn’t view himself as a responsible partner in negotiations with a sovereign nation whose legitimacy he respects without reservation. 

Instead, the non-negotiable preconditions are always leveled at Israel, as a Jerusalem Post op-ed from Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry points out:

The Palestinian leadership has dealt directly with Israel since 1993, but has refused to do so since March 2010. They seem to prefer theatrics in New York to the hard work of negotiation and compromise that peace will require.

Unfortunate errors by the Obama administration have encouraged the Palestinians to take steps backward away from peace. It was a mistake to inject an Israeli construction freeze, including in Jerusalem, as an unprecedented precondition for talks. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership had been negotiating with Israel for years, notwithstanding settlement activity.

When the Obama administration demanded a settlement freeze, it led to a freeze in Palestinian negotiations.

It was a mistake to agree to the Palestinians’ demand for indirect negotiations conducted through the United States. And it was an even greater mistake for President Obama to distance himself from Israel and seek engagement with the hostile regimes in Syria and Iran.

Palestinian leaders have perceived this as a weakening of relations between Israel and the United States, and are trying to exploit it. In refusing to deal with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and taking this destabilizing action in the UN, the Palestinians are signaling that they have no interest in a two-state solution. The Palestinian leadership’s insistence on the so-called “right of return” of descendants of Palestinian refugees to Israel’s sovereign territory, thereby making Jews an ethnic minority in their own state, is a disturbing sign that the ultimate Palestinian “solution” remains the destruction of the Jewish state.

(Emphases mine.) The Palestinian statehood vote will only continue to skew the debate, by painting the Israelis as intransigent obstacles to peace who refuse to recognize the “will of mankind.”  If you don’t think the Palestinians will play it that way, you haven’t paid much attention to their domestic politics or international public-relations efforts. 

 The Obama Administration, along with many other U.N. member nations, is not telling the Palestinians they must meet certain absolute conditions in order to earn their position as responsible participants in historic negotiations.  (A year without the wanton slaughter of Israeli civilians would be nice.)  They’re saying the Palestinians are guaranteed to get their state, no matter what they do, and it’s up to Israel to make it work.

We’ll never have the right answer to the “Palestinian question” until we start asking the right question.

Update: The Weekly Standard noticed that the official logo of the “Permanent Observer Mission Of Palestine To The United Nations” literally shows Israel being wiped off the map.