IN THE MEDIA
Palestine cannot achieve its aims without truly committing to peace alongside Israel
Mar 1, 2023 | Jamie Hyams
The Mercury – 1 March 2023
Bob Carr urges Australia to recognise a Palestinian state (“A Palestinian state alongside Israel is the one hope for peace in the West Bank”, February 23), yet this would be totally counter-productive to the cause of peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists because the Palestinian leadership has rejected repeated offers of statehood in favour of a strategy of violence and demonising Israel internationally. It hopes to secure statehood without the necessary negotiations, and without acknowledging that this would end the conflict.
If countries such as Australia prematurely recognise a Palestinian state – which does not currently meet the criteria of international law – it would only encourage a continuation of these cynical PA tactics, making peace more distant. Only one Western democracy has done this.
Israel has always sought peace, but been forced to defend itself. It accepted the UN partition plan in 1948, despite this falling far short of its aspirations. However, Arab leaders, and surrounding Arab nations, rejected partition, and invaded from all sides as soon as Israel declared independence.
Some Arab residents were forced out during the fighting. However, most refugees left without even seeing an Israeli soldier, either at the urging of their leaders, or in fear at false stories of alleged Israeli atrocities.
The real tragedy is that their refugee status has, uniquely among all refugee populations, been passed on to their descendants, meaning an initial refugee population of 700,000 is now well over five million, with many still restricted to camps, even in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza in the defensive Six Day War of 1967, and immediately offered to return land for peace, but was unequivocally refused peace, recognition or negotiation by the Arab League.
Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian leadership was three times offered statehood in line with internationally recognised parameters. Then Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat responded to the first offer, at Camp David in 2000, by instigating the Second Intifada, a terrorist campaign which saw suicide bombers and shooters kill approximately 1,000 Israelis between 2000 and 2005.
This, and ongoing terrorist threats, necessitated the security barrier and checkpoints that Israel’s critics laughably cite as supposed evidence of alleged Israeli “apartheid”. In fact, all Israeli citizens have the same rights regardless of ethnicity. Different laws apply to the West Bank because applying Israeli law there would effectively amount to annexation.
Israel’s Nation State Law simply declares Israel the nation state of the Jewish people, as was originally intended by the UN in 1948, and in much the same way dozens of other states define themselves using religion or ethnicity. Yet it’s only called “apartheid” when Israel does this.
In 2005, Israel withdrew completely from Gaza, but Hamas turned it into a terror enclave which continues to threaten Israeli civilians with rockets and terrorist tunnels.
In 2008, then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert offered PA President Mahmoud Abbas a state including Gaza, land equivalent to the entire West Bank, and a capital in east Jerusalem. Abbas, as he himself has said, rejected it “out of hand”.
Further serious peace efforts by Benjamin Netanyahu were similarly dismissed in 2013-14. The PA instead insists on the legally baseless “right of return” to Israel for the refugees and their millions of descendants. This is completely incompatible with the basis of the Oslo Accords – two states for two peoples – and would result in non-Jewish majorities in both.
While Abbas doesn’t initiate terrorism, he encourages it through all-pervasive incitement through every possible medium, from religious sermons to textbooks to media, and by awarding terrorists and their families generous lifetime pensions.
Meanwhile, the PA continues to demonise Israel internationally, aided by Israel’s more obsessive critics, including those in the West.
They claim growing settlements prevent a two-state peace, even though settlements have barely expanded geographically since chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted they comprise less than 2 percent of the West Bank. They claim Israel steals Palestinians’ water, even though Israel provides them more water than the Oslo Accords require.
And they focus on the number of Palestinian children, being anyone under 18, tragically killed by Israel – ignoring the fact that the majority were carrying out armed attacks or fighting, mostly with terrorist groups. Who should be blamed, the terrorists who, appallingly, recruit child soldiers, the PA, which incites them from birth, or Israelis defending themselves?
So if anyone wants to perpetuate the violence and hostility, by all means prematurely recognise a Palestinian state. But to actually contribute to peace requires understanding the obstacles to a resolution and helping clear them. This means working to end the PA’s intransigence and cynicism by letting it know it cannot achieve its aims without genuinely committing to peace alongside Israel, rather than continuing to pursue a state in place of Israel.
Jamie Hyams is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council