By Arsen Ostrovsky
Australian Financial Review – 30 May 2011
On 24 May, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic address to a joint meeting of the U.S Congress, saying he was willing to “make painful compromises”, including relinquishing “parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland”, in pursuit of peace with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu acknowledged that, “a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous”. However, as President Obama recently noted, the border will have to be different to the 15-kilometre ceasefire line that existed prior to Israel’s defensive war of June 1967.
Simply put, Israel cannot return to those indefensible borders.
This conflict has never been about borders or settlements or even Palestinian statehood. Rather, the crux of the dispute has been – and remains to this day – Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state.
In order for there to be a real and lasting peace, Palestinian President Abbas must make significant compromises, similar to that of Netanyahu.
First and foremost, the Palestinians must relinquish their fanciful demand to flood millions of descendants of Palestinians who left during the 1948 war into Israel. No Israeli leader will ever agree to this because it will entail the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. These descendants will need to be resettled in a future Palestinian state, just like a near equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries from that war were absorbed by Israel.
Recently Israel celebrated its 63rd year of independence. The Palestinians call this the ‘naqba’, or catastrophe.
The real catastrophe is that the Palestinians could have also celebrated their 63rd year of independence had they agreed in 1947, like the Israelis, to the UN vote to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Instead, five Arab countries attacked the infant State of Israel the moment it was declared.
Israel has repeatedly shown that, when met with a partner willing to reach a true historic compromise with the Jewish people, like the late Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan, she will accept this opportunity with open arms and trade land for peace.
Just as Netanyahu has stood before the Israeli people and said “I will accept a Palestinian state,” so too must Abbas now stand before his people and say “I will accept a Jewish state.”
Instead, Abbas continues to embrace Hamas, shun Israel and persist with his unilateralist march to the UN.
Moreover, Abbas’ recent decision to follow up two years of refusing to negotiate with Israel by entering into a unity government with Hamas – a terrorist group which refuses to recognise Israel’s existence and is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state – is not the sign of someone that yearns for peace.
Netanyahu has unambiguously said that he is prepared to make painful and far-reaching compromises for peace. The question remains – is Mahmoud Abbas prepared to do the same?
Arsen Ostrovsky is a Policy Analyst at the Australia / Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)