The following is an opinion piece, and it should not be construed to reflect the ideas or position of GTJ as an organization.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel are engaging once again in peace negotiations. Disconcertingly, the Obama Administration pressured Israel to agree to the release of more 104 hardened terrorists as a presage to the commencement of these talks. These prisoners, prevented from harming more innocent people for more than 20 years, will now threaten lives once more. In the hope of peace, Israel agreed to this release. Now, it’s the PA’s turn to make some quite reasonable concessions. Without these 9 simple agreements, an independent Palestinian should not be created.
1. Cease providing moral and financial support to terrorists
The PA continues to celebrate and honor those who engage in terrorist acts. Furthermore, the PA provides payments to imprisoned terrorists in Israeli and PA prisons for engaging in terrorist activity. These policies condone and glamorize violence against Israelis and also financially incentivizes such acts.
2. Abandon on-going efforts to brainwash schoolchildren
Schools operated and controlled by the PA continue to poison the minds of young children with a hatred towards the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. In addition, the media promotes this racism by broadcasting children and personalities who communicate these views. These children are fed a steady diet of hatred and bias overtly sponsored by the government.
3. Recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state
The Palestinian Liberation Organization, of which the PA possesses its governing authority, still refuses to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, the official charter seeks to eradicate the Jewish state not just from the West Bank but from the entire region:
Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
Prime Minister Abbas recently said, “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won’t accept it.” If the PA genuinely desires peace, Abbas must change both his rhetoric and his actions.
4. Recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel
For centuries, the city of Jerusalem served as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The focal point of the Jewish religion, the Temple, stood on the Temple Mount within the confines of the city. The importance of this city to the national identity of the Jewish people is paramount. Since obtaining control of the Old City following the Six Day War of 1967, Israel has respected and protected the rights of adherents to all religions within the city. Prior to this time, such religious liberty did not exist. The PA must recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
5. Accept that no blanket right of return exists
Following the 1947 UN partition resolution, many Arab residents of the soon to be formed Jewish state left the region. Following Israel’s declaration of independence, the exodus increased. This exodus was encouraged by Arab leaders although Israeli leadership repeatedly expressed a willingness to live in peace with Arab citizens. On the other hand, many Jewish people in Arab states were forced to flee regions in which their families lived for hundreds of years. More than 65 years later, neighboring Arab states still refuse to settle the refugees – and their descendants—of this war. Instead, they continue to demand Israel grant these refugees a right to become citizens and residents of Israel. A newly created Palestinian state must accept that this blanket “right of return” does not exist.
6. Accept the legitimacy of the Israeli “settlements”
The region of Judea and Samaria (historic homeland of the Jewish People) is more often referred to as the West Bank. Both Arabs and Jewish people have ancestral ties to this land. In fact, the tombs of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah) are located in the ancient Jewish city of Hebron—within the West Bank. The tomb of Jacob’s son Joseph is also located within the West Bank. The site of the Jewish tabernacle in Shiloh lies in the region as well. The ancient Jewish tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh settled this region thousands of years ago.
In modern times, the number of Jewish residents in the region of Judea and Samaria totals more than 350,000. Demanding that these settlers leave or cease expansion is thoroughly irrational. These are not colonialists or imperialists, as some suggest. Quite simple, these “settlers” are building homes and livelihoods in a region intrinsically connected to the Jewish people for thousands of years. Just as Israel does not seek to expunge Palestinians from this region, so the PA must understand that Jewish people also have a right to build a future in this region.
7. Agree to borders which do not include the entire “pre-1967” lines
The mantra from the PA and even from the Obama Administration often insists that the borders of an independent Palestinian state must adhere close to the “pre-1967” lines. “Land swaps” are suggested as a necessity for any deviations from this border. These demands are untenable.
Let’s recall exactly why the “lines” changed in 1967. Following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, Arab nations attempted to annihilate Israel. Although Israel had agreed to the 1947 UN Partition proposal of the region, Israel’s Arab neighbors refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state in their midst. After winning this war of survival, the borders of the state of Israel differed somewhat from the original partition plan. In 1967, Israel fought what is known as the Six Day War—yet another war for survival. Following this war, Israel gained possession of the Old City of Jerusalem, its ancient capital. Israel also captured Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
Over the last few decades, Israel has relinquished sovereignty over the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel has also expressed a willingness to forfeit a vast majority of the West Bank. A belief that Israel has no right to any portion of these territories captured as a result of the Six Day War is not based on fact. Israel may choose to relinquish a portion of the West Bank for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. However, to assume the “pre-1967 lines” as the standard for a fair outcome is preposterous, even if “land swaps” are factored in to the equation. Israel has a legal and historical right to this region. Israel may choose to concede sovereignty over portions of this area—but the PA has no rational basis under which to demand adherence to the “pre-1967 lines”.
8. Agree to a permanent Israeli military presence on the Jordan/ West Bank border
In order to protect Israel from an influx of arms from Jordan, the PA must allow a permanent Israeli military presence on the border between Jordan and the West Bank. Otherwise, illicit weapons imported into the region could threaten the stability of the PA government and also the lives of Israeli citizens. Keep in mind that Tel Aviv and the Ben Gurion International Airport is just 7.2 miles from Palestinian areas of the West Bank. This is within striking distance of rocket attacks.
9. Agree to being a non-militarized State
The PA must agree to be non-militarized. At its widest point, Israel is just 85 miles across. An agreement with Egypt ensures the Sinai Peninsula remains non-militarized to the south of Israel. The Golan Heights in the north provides a buffer against any invading force from Syria or Lebanon. Presently, the West Bank provides a zone of safety against any invading force from the East. Absent a non-militarization agreement, Israel’s populous regions would be threatened by the possibility of a massive attack carried to completion within hours. Israel’s neighbors attempted such a result in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Because of this threat, the PA must agree to not militarize its territory.
An independent Palestinian state is not a perquisite to peace; other avenues exist. And the world should be aware that Israel is neither morally nor legally obligated to agree to the creation of such a state. A peace negotiation requires BOTH parties working together. It’s time for the PA to make a good faith effort. Agreeing to these nine principles would be a start.