Exposing the Myth of “Linkage”
By Alex Grobman, PhD, a prolific author and Hebrew University-trained historian, as well as a consultant to the America-Israel Friendship League, a member of the Council of Scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), and a member of the Academic Council of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
For years, experts and would-be-experts on the problems in the Middle East have argued over the concept of “linkage,” the theory that if only the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs were solved, all other struggles in the Middle East would fade away.
The realists among them recognize that this theory is not only a false myth, but that it has its roots in the effort to distance the US from the Jewish state.
Those who argue for “linkage” usually focus on the Jewish communities in the disputed areas of Judea, Samaria, and the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which are claimed by both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
This was certainly Barack Obama’s approach on becoming President when he began what he hoped would be an historic transformation of America’s foreign policy. He traveled to Cairo to ask for a “new beginning” between the US and the Islamic world to correct what he believed was the misconception of the alleged favoritism toward Israel at the expense of the Muslim nations.
His interest in solving the conflict was compounded by his conclusion that the Middle East is no longer vital to American interests. Further, he believes, even if an American President wanted to intercede in this quagmire, there is very little he could do to neutralize the situation. Intervention would inevitably lead to war, to the deaths of US combatants, and the diminution of American credibility and power, which the country cannot afford.
Mr. Obama believes the problem in the Middle East is tribalism, which no American President can neutralize. The failing Arab states have prompted their despondent citizens to return to sect, creed, clan, and village, which is the root cause of a great deal of the problems Muslims in the area face today, and is an additional source of their resignation and fatalism.
Increasing Daylight between the US and Israel
For Mr. Obama, the first step towards realizing the goal of separation was to increase daylight between the Washington and Israel.
In his first interview, six weeks after assuming office, he told Hisham Melhem of the Arab satellite station Al Arabiya, that he believed that, as President, his “job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”
In explaining his Middle East policy, Mr. Obama acknowledged there would be some, but not all, Israelis who would not share his position.
“Now, Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side,” he said.
Declaring Settlements Illegitimate
This strategy led Mr. Obama to focus on “linkage” and “settlements,” which he viewed as illegitimate. As he said in his Cairo speech, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
His expression of sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs who, he said, suffered “daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation,” signaled that his administration held Israel, and not Palestinian-Arab conduct, responsible for the conflict.
Mr. Obama’s use of the term “occupation” conveyed a strong message: “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.”
By publicly distancing America from Israel, Mr. Obama hoped to demonstrate that the U.S. could be a reliable mediator.
Many pundits agreed with him. Mark Landler, the New York Times’s White House correspondent, reported that, for Mr. Obama, the “peace process” was about terminating Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria, which would be “a kind of silver bullet.” This view held that, once the Israelis vacated the area, Muslim hatred toward Israel and America would decrease, enabling the President to extricate the U.S. from this war-torn region.
Linkage Is a “Policy Myth”
Other pundits disagreed. Dennis Ross, who served as Mr. Obama’s special assistant, and, before that, as director of policy planning in the State Department for George H. W. Bush and as President Bill Clinton’s Middle East Peace envoy, and David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the Middle East Peace Process, argued that “of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all the other Middle East conflicts would melt away.”
They stressed that the idea that “ending the Arab-Israel is prerequisite to addressing the maladies of the Middle East. Solve it, and, in doing so, conclude all other conflicts. Fail, and instability – even war – will engulf the entire region,” is a false narrative.
They do not deny that the dispute is unfortunate, but, they conclude, it has not “destabilize[d] the Middle East.”
“There have been two Palestinian Intifadas, or uprisings, including one that lasted from 2000 to 2005 and claimed the lives of 4,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis—but not a single Arab leader had been toppled or a single regime destabilized as a result. It has remained a local conflict, contained in a small geographical area. Yet the argument of linkage endures to this day, and with powerful promoters.”
An Arab Concept
Years ago, “linkage” was exploited as leverage to pressure the US to distance itself from Israel. At the beginning, Arab leaders fostered the notion that America had the responsibility to resolve the conflict. If the US did not assume this role, it would endanger relations with the Arab world, they said.
This approach resonated for President Jimmy Carter, for whom the settlements were “a serious obstacle to peace” because Israel had signaled the country’s determination to “make the military occupation permanent,” which encouraged other Israelis to establish additional settlements.
Mr. Carter went so far as to claim the outcome of this conflict “will shape the future of Israel; it may also determine the prospects for peace in the Middle East—and perhaps the world.”
Among a number of leaders promoting this false myth were former National Security Advisor James Jones and Robert Malley, who served as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region. Mr. Malley did not come to his post without history. He previously directed the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, which is funded by the blatantly anti-Israel billionaire George Soros.
“Linkage” Supported by Hillary Clinton
According to Mr. Landler, former Secretary of State and recent Democratic Party candidate for President Hillary Clinton shares Mr. Obama’s beliefs that the “settlements were pernicious,” since, she believes, they eclipsed the possibility of establishing a sustainable Palestinian Arab state.
When asked if Israel had to stop building new settlements, but could continue construction within existing settlements, an idea known as “natural growth,” she went beyond Mr. Obama’s guidelines. “Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,” she said.
Her dismissive attitude toward Israel can be summed up in a remark she made to Jake Sullivan, Deputy Assistant to Mr. Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.
A few years ago, while en route to the annual meeting of AIPAC in Washington, D.C., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters of the Israeli government’s determination not to capitulate to America on settlements. According to Mr. Landler, when Mr. Sullivan informed Mrs. Clinton that, to him, the Israelis “sounded a bit cocky,” she responded, “They always sound cocky. In the air, on the ground.”
According to Mr. Landler, she regularly calls Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname “Bibi,” but “often it was attached to the f-word.”
Other Linkage Supporters
James A. Baker III, who served as Secretary of State in the George H. W. Bush administration, complained that “American efforts to generate momentum were constantly hampered by the specter of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.”
According to Mr. Baker, even Ronald Reagan, considered a strong supporter of Israel, viewed them as “an obstacle to peace.”
President Bush held the “very strong belief that the settlements were simply wrong,” and Brent Scowcroft, who worked with Mr. Baker as U.S. National Security Advisor under President Bush, believed that “Israel was the main stumbling block to peace.”
Successive Secretaries of State
Madeleine Albright, who served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, claimed that “softening Arab hostility” toward Israel “would have been simpler had some Israeli leaders not asserted the right to govern the West Bank and Gaza completely and permanently.”
George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, also claimed the Palestinian-Arab issue to be “at the core of a lot of problems in the region.”
“There is no substitute for trying to get to the place where the Palestinians finally have their state and the Israelis finally have a neighbor who can live in peace and security with them,” she said, adding that the “Israeli-Palestinian track is extremely important” because it “unlocks the key” to “further engagement between the Arabs and the Israelis.”
According to Ms. Rice, throughout the administration of George W. Bush, announcements of new settlements by the Israeli government “were a constant problem.” At times, she noted, they were publicized even when construction would not begin for years. Often they were a restatement of previous commitments made to placate a particular coalition constituency.
“But they were always disruptive and provocative, reminding the world of Israel’s controversial settlement activity. And in the context of the violence in 2001, the announcement was even more toxic. Palestinians and Israelis were at war,” she said.
Mr. Obama’s former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the administration believed that “the lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran.”
And it was not only Americans who believed this. Tony Blair, who served as a Prime Minister of the UK from 1997 to 2007, and as official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, believed in linkage.
In May 2008, he said, “I have always taken the view that although the Israel-Palestine issue is not the cause of extremism, resolving it is a major part of helping with the boarder strategy.”
Elliot Abrams, who served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he also supervised US policy in the Middle East for the White House, characterized the policy of subordinating all regional issues to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, the “fatal flaw.” Mr. Abrams warned that “linkage” ignores the Arab and Israeli assessments of the own situations, which leads the US to attribute greater importance to Arab officials’ statements about the conflict than to what is happening in their countries.
Two Americans, who agreed with Mr. Abrams on the “fatal flaw” are former Vice President Dick Cheney and former American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton.
Mr. Cheney did not believe that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Arab crisis would “take the steam out of the terrorist threat.” Unlike Mr. Blair, Mr. Cheney recognized that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ceased immediately, “the terrorists would simply find another rationale for their continuing jihad.”
In his book, Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations, Mr. Bolton explains that, given the daily terrorist threats Israel experiences from Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Islamic terrorist organizations, “there is no rationale for the US to pressure Israel into ‘peace agreements’ with its remaining Arab neighbors, or to believe that ‘dialogue’ on such issues will have any material effect on the Middle East’s numerous other conflicts.”
Mr. Abrams did not deny that Arab populations and their governments are concerned about the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict, however, he said, it is only one of many issues that matters to them.
In his book, Tested by Zion, Mr. Abrams explains that the Arab Spring revolts in 2011 should have dispelled the myth that Arab politics revolves around Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Proof that what occurred in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq and Syria was not about Israel is that, during the Clinton and Bush administrations, relations with Israel were closer than they were in Mr. Obama’s, but Messrs Clinton and Bush also had closer relations with Saudi Arabia than Mr. Obama enjoyed.
A Religion with Dogma
The centrality of the peace process to American foreign policy in the Middle East had become a religion with its own dogma long before Aaron David Miller, former advisor to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations, (1978-2003), arrived at the State Department.
“These tenets endured and prospered, even while the realities on which they were based had begun to change,” he said. “The idea that there is a simple solution to protecting American interests in the region is completely wrong.”
Mr. Miller did not always possess this insight. Former US Ambassador to Israel as well as Mr. Obama’s peace envoy to the region, Martin Indyk, writes that Mr. Miller and Daniel Kurtzer, who worked as Mr. Ross’s deputy in the office of Special Middle East Coordinator (SMEC), and who later served as American ambassador to Israel and Egypt, “felt keenly that the United States could not hope to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict unled it treated the ‘core’ Israeli-Palestinian problem first.” The “core” problem was, of course, the Jewish communities in the disputed territories.
When Israel decided to construct Jewish communities in areas the Americans considered part of eastern Jerusalem, Mr. Kurtzer complained this action would destroy any possibility of creating a two-state solution.
“This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank. This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope the United States will lay down the law,” he told Mr. Landler.
Arabs’ Real Goals
Richard N. Haas, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed with Mr. Abrams that, if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ended, terrorism would not abate. In a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “The Palestine Peace Distraction,” Mr. Haas noted that the terrorists are driven by their desire to purge the Arabian Peninsula of infidels. Their ultimate objective, he said, is to spread Islam similar to the system practiced in the seventh-century. They may openly espouse solidarity with Palestinian Arab goals, but they do not want a Palestinian Arab state, he said.
Mr. Haas also recognized that other Middle East problems are also unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These include the power struggles between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds in Iraq; America’s involvement in Afghanistan; and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
When Arab governments worked with the U.S. to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait during the Gulf War, they did so because it was in their best interests. The lack of diplomatic progress would not preclude collaboration against an aggressive Iran.
Equally significant, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not answer questions of political stability and legitimacy within the Arab world.
According to Mr. Haas, overstating the benefits of resolving the conflict could lead to distorting American foreign policy. Conferring more importance than the dispute warrants, creates impatience, and invites the US government to embrace unrealistic policies that are doomed to fail, he said.
The Green Line
The issue of the US view of Jewish “settlements” is not new. These communities, built on land captured from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, became the first hurdle in negotiations.
More than half a million Jews now live in Judea and Samaria, which is beyond the armistice lines known as the “green line.” The so-called “green line” is not a political border, has no legal status, and does not influence future negotiations about borders. It is merely edge at which Israeli and Arab soldiers were positioned in 1949 when the cease-fire began.
The designated “green line” was also applied to the eastern part of Jerusalem, which the US viewed as the would-be capital of the future Palestinian Arab state.
A Political Problem or a Legal One?
Since the Reagan administration, US objection to settlements has been that they constitute a political problem. Mr. Obama jeopardized a political solution by transforming the problem into a legal issue by using the words “legitimate” and “legitimacy,” which complicated any political discussions.
When Mr. Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, linked the upsurge in Palestinian violence to frustration with the “settlements,” Mr. Ross called the linkage “a mistake,” because it implied “that if tomorrow there were no settlements, this issue would be solved.”
Mr. Ross recognized that “there is a remarkable continuity over the concern that too close a relationship with Israel will harm US ties with the Arabs, so there is always a constituency in each administration that feels the US needs to create distance with Israel to gain responsiveness from the Arab world.”
Reflexively Partial to the Palestinians
Like many others, Mr. Ross criticized Mr. Obama for being reflexively partial to the Palestinians. Mr. Obama, he said, “tends to look at Israel through a lens that is more competitive, more combative, that sees Israel more in problematic terms.”
In fact, said Mr. Ross, Mr. Obama’s antagonistic attitude to the administration of George W. Bush represented nothing less than a calculated effort to distance the Obama administration from Israel.
“When the President comes in, he thinks we have a major problem with Arabs and Muslims. And he sees that as a function of the Bush administration — an image, fairly or not, that Bush was at war with Islam. So one of the ways that he wants to show that he’s going to have an outreach to the Muslim world is that he’s going to give this speech in Cairo. So he wants to reach out and show that the US is not so close to the Israelis, which he thinks also feeds this perception. That’s why there’s an impulse to do some distancing from Israel, and that’s why the settlement issue is seized in a way,” said Mr. Ross.
As Mr. Ross sees it, Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Obama all pursed a somewhat similar strategy, but this approach did not produce any results. In fact, in some cases, American relations with the Middle East deteriorated.
When Mr. Obama appointed former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) as special envoy to the Middle East on January 22, 2009, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem would be seen as a fundamental impediment to peace. In fact, Mr. Mitchell insisted on a settlement freeze as a precondition for peace negotiations. No previous administration had ever made this a requirement. Even during the period of the Camp David Summit in 2000 and after the Annapolis meeting in 2007, Jews continued to build communities in Judea and Samaria.
Significantly, in 2011, when then-Sen John Kerry (D-MA) served as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he explained the futility of this approach. “I was opposed to the prolonged effort on the settlements in a public way because I never thought it would work and, in fact, we have wasted a year and a half on something that for a number of reasons was not achievable,” he said.
Furthermore, the demand placed Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas in a delicate position. He could not insist on getting less from the Israelis than Washington was demanding. If Mr. Obama mandated a total freeze as a precondition to negotiations, then Mr. Abbas had to acquiesce, even if he disagreed with the strategy. Mr. Abbas told Newsweek the Obama administration had led him up a tree and then “removed the ladder.”
But this was not a sudden whim on Mr. Mitchell’s part. A seasoned diplomat with a reputation of being “capable of untangling the world’s knottiest disputes,” he had expressed his views on the “settlements” in a 2001 international investigatory commission that examined the cause of violence of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that began in 2000. Mr. Mitchell believed that “a cessation of Palestinian-Israeli violence will be particularly hard to sustain unless [Israel] freezes all settlement construction activity. Settlement activities must not be allowed to undermine the restoration of calm and the resumption of negotiations.”
On his so-called “listening tour” of Arab capitals, Mr. Mitchell heard from Arab leaders who demanded that Israel freeze all settlements on land they insisted would, one day, become part of a Palestinian-Arab state, but none of the Arab leaders were willing to assist Mr. Obama in his effort to secure peace with Israel.
Mr. Landler reported that some former administration officials believe Mr. Obama “over-interpreted” Mr. Mitchell’s findings. In fact, Arab leaders were more concerned about Iran’s nuclear threat than they were about the effect that continued construction of Jewish communities would have on the “peace process.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Mitchell’s message about the “settlements” resonated with Mr. Obama’s biases. The President wanted to demonstrate to the Arabs that pressuring Israel could change the country’s behavior.
According to then-Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, Mr. Obama was so intent in ensuring that the Israelis complied with his ultimatum, that he went so far as to threaten Mr. Netanyahu.
“Face-to-face, I later heard, Obama had demanded that Netanyahu cease all building not only in the territories but also in the disputed areas of Jerusalem. ‘Not a single brick,’ the president purportedly said. ‘I know how to deal with people who oppose me.’” Mr. Oren reported.
In a meeting with then-Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, Mr. Oren exposed the hypocrisy of this policy.
“Under the administration’s policy,” Mr. Oren pointed out, “a Jew could only build his home in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods, but an Arab could build anywhere—even illegally—without limit. In America, that’s called discrimination.”
Mr. Oren explained that what Mr. Obama did not know, or, perhaps did not want to recognize, is that an Israeli prime minister has no more authority to halt construction in Jerusalem than an American president has in Chicago.
Though Mr. Obama viewed any Israeli construction in areas once under Jordanian control, a “provocation and an obstacle to peace,” Mr. Netanyahu made it clear in a speech on March 22, 2010, at the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, that “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital. In Jerusalem, my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin…. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today….It’s only under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem that religious freedom for all faiths has been guaranteed.”
Obsession with Settlements
Although the mainstream and especially left-wing media in the US has highlighted the Obama administrations—and their own—obsession with the “settlements,” the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs is not about the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. As Mr. Abrams has shown, construction in these communities is not a crucial matter to any of the Arabs, and construction in additional areas has been marginal.
At Camp David in 2000, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered PLO chief Yasir Arafat 94 percent of Judea and Samaria; ten years later, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Mr. Abbas 93.6 percent with a one-to-one land swap. In other words, said Mr. Abrams, expansion of these Jewish communities has not significantly reduced the land available for establishing a Palestinian-Arab state.
In addition, it is clear that there has been no deliberate Israeli policy or government program to expand Jewish building in Judea, Samaria, or eastern Jerusalem. On the contrary, as Mr. Abrams pointed out, there have been official constraints.
Between 2009 and 2015, the government of Mr. Netanyahu has officially approved only 9,197 residential construction permits in all of Judea and Samaria, meaning the entire “West Bank,” excluding Jerusalem. Approximately two-thirds of the approved units approved were built inside the major existing blocs. Only about 500 units were approved each year for construction outside the settlement blocs.
None of this has mattered to the Palestinians or their leaders, who have insisted that Israel agree to three conditions before negotiations can even start: The agreement to withdraw from all land won during the 1967 Six-Day War; the agreement to free all Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons, including those who targeted and killed Israeli civilians; and the agreement to implement the so-called Palestinian “Law of Return,” which would allow repatriation into Israel proper of all Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 and 1967 and their descendants, meaning millions of individuals who could then demographically flood Israel and vote the Jewish state out of existence.
The Israelis have only two pre-requirements: That the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the Jewish state” and that they agree that, once negotiations conclude, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will be over. The Arabs have refused both.
Nevertheless, Palestinian-Arab intransigence did not deter Mr. Netanyahu from agreeing to a two-state solution under the right circumstances. In his speech at Bar-Ilan University on June 14, 2009, the Israeli Prime Minister approved in principle to implement a two-state solution.
“In the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them,” he said, explaining that, in his vision of peace, “there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence.”
Before a real peace agreement could be reached, he said, the Palestinian Arabs would have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and the Arab state would have to be demilitarized.
The Real Goal is Obliteration of Israel
The Palestinian Arabs have never hidden their refusal to accept the existence of the state of Israel or to establish a separate Arab state. In a rare admission in an international forum, Mr. Abbas delivered a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 28, 2015, in which he denied Israel’s right to exist in any part of the land of Israel, maintaining that Israel had “occupied” Palestinian land since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
“For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years, how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?” he said, implying that all of the land of Israel is “an occupation” and legitimately should not “last.”
This was not a new view. In the last interview before his death in 2013, Faysal Al-Husseini, PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, told the Egyptian daily, Al-Arabi, the ultimate objective of the Palestinian Arabs “is the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.”
The “entire land is an Islamic Waqf which cannot be bought or sold, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is stealing it,” he said, adding that the “Oslo Accords” on which the “peace process” is based, is “a Trojan Horse.”
An Insoluble Problem
Princeton Prof Bernard Lewis, who has been called “the West’s leading interpreter of the Middle East” and is often regarded as the dean of Middle East scholars, has said that if the issue between the Palestinians and Israelis were only about the size of the Jewish state, the issue would be “a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas.”
That does not mean it would be easy to solve, but would be “possible in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.”
But, he said, if the issue is the existence of Israel, “then, clearly, it is insoluble by negotiation.”
“There is no compromise between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist,” he said.
Palestinian Population Has the Same View
But the goal of destroying Israel persists not only for the Palestinian leadership, but also for the majority of the general population. A poll taken by the Watan Center for Studies and Research in late 2015 found that 48 percent of the Palestinian Arabs interviewed assert the real aim of the current “intifada” is to “liberate all of Palestine,” which means the destruction of the Jewish state. Just 11 percent of those polled believed the goal of the “intifada” should be to “liberate” only those territories captured by Israel in 1967. Another 12 percent said the insurrection should pressure Israel to free the terrorists currently serving terms in Israeli prisons.
According to the survey, 75 percent believed the use of violence against Israelis is justified. More than 44 percent condone firearms against Israel; 18 percent advocate using knives to murder Jews, and another 14 percent support Palestinian Arabs’ use of stones.
These surveys, which have been remarkably consistent, dispute Mr. Abbas’s assertion that the Palestinian Arabs seek a “peaceful and popular” uprising or solution to the conflict.
Social and Financial Motivation for Terror
Another significant finding of the survey is that 72 percent of the respondents want the “intifada” to continue terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. This should come as no surprise. Their leaders and journalists constantly assure them that those who kill Jews are “heroes” and “martyrs” who will have streets, squares, schools, and sport tournaments named after them. They and their families also stand to gain financially.
According to the survey, none of the interviewees complained about suffering from “despair and frustration,” or the absence of a “political horizon.” They had no objections to “settlements” or “poor living conditions.” A majority believed that Israel can—and must—be obliterated. They are not, as Palestinian Arabs leaders allege, interested in a two-state solution.
The PA National Security Forces routinely publish pictures of all of Israel as “Palestine,” not only on its official stationery but also on its Facebook page. Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Haifa, and Acre were recently labeled as “occupied.”
Mr. Abbas has also sought to demonize Israel at every opportunity. He has referred to Jewish prayer in areas that are holy to both Jews as Muslims as “desecration.”
When Israeli security forces respond to violence, Palestinian leaders blame the Jews and lionize the Arab perpetrators.
Playing the perennial aggrieved victim to deflect attention away from his own incitement, Mr. Abbas has pleaded for “strong and decisive intervention” from the UN to be used against Israel. His remarks are usually swiftly denounced by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement last year, “President Abbas chose once more the way of propaganda and incitement, instead of the dialogue proposed by Israel.”
The fact that incitement to violence against Jews is a key element in PA schools goes unreported in most media outlets. A July 2015 report by Palestinian Media Watch Report entitled “Palestinian Authority Education: A Recipe for Hate and Terror,” found that the PA “profoundly poisons the minds of Palestinian children” and that PA education “is a recipe for last hate and terror.”
“The PA-controlled educational structures are actively ensuring that the conflict, terror and war will continue into the next generation. Children are taught to see Jews as their enemy and the enemy of Allah. Jews are said to be cursed by Allah, descended from monkeys and pigs and are ‘the most evil of creations.’ Children who recite these messages on children’s programs are applauded, not corrected,” said the report.
Holding Israel Responsible
In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the Palestinian Arabs never had any intention of signing a peace agreement, Israel is continually held responsible for failing to reach an accord with them. Israelis who sought peace through agreements, goodwill gestures, and relinquishing Israeli “land for peace” in hopes of reducing hostility and violence have been perpetually disappointed.
Champions of the Palestinian Arabs or those, like Mr. Obama, who think that the onus for making peace falls on Israel, expect the Jewish state to relinquish land won in wars she did not initiate or want. Israel is expected to release a large number of terrorists, many of whom murdered Jewish civilians in cold blood.
And what is required of the Palestinian Arabs? In 2015, Uzi Arad, who served as the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, and the head of the Israeli National Security Council, said he could not “remember a single concession of the Palestinians since 1994.”
When President Carter initiated the negotiations leading to the March 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, which established diplomatic relationships between the two nations, Mr. Carter expected Israel to make most of the concessions, even though Israel was the victor and the Arabs had been defeated. When then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin refused to terms that would endanger the security of the Jewish state, Mr. Carter called him “an insurmountable obstacle to further progress.”
According to accounts of the negotiations, at one point, Mr. Carter told Mr. Begin, “peace in the Middle East was in his hands, that he had a unique opportunity to either bring it into being or kill it, and that he understood that the Arabs generally wanted peace, particularly Sadat.”
In the years since then, the pressure on Israel has been unrelenting. At a rally in Tel-Aviv commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, former President Bill Clinton told the crowd of Israelis that “the next step” would be “determined by whether you decide that Rabin was right, that you have to share your future with your neighbors, that you have to stand for peace, that the risk for peace isn’t as severe as the risk of walking away from it. We are praying that you will make the right decision.”
Whitewashing the PA
At a Ha’aretz peace conference in November 2015, Mr. Indyk, said that an immediate settlement freeze would enable President Abbas to be a peace partner “tomorrow.” Mr. Indyk urged Israelis to stop viewing themselves as victims, because despite their history of victimhood, Israel is a strong state in every way.
This pressure can further be seen in a 2015 interview with Ben Rhodes conducted by Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for Ha’aretz. Mr. Rhodes, a White House Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, who played a dominant role in shaping Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, is still focused on the settlements as a major cause of the stalemate.
“For Israel, the more there is settlement construction, the more it undermines the ability to achieve that peace and the more Israel will only have to be defending its settlement policies in the years to come” said Mr. Rhodes. “That’s a reality. It is not something the U.S. or the international community has chosen to make an issue. It’s an issue because there are settlements being built in the West Bank. That’s not going to go away—that’s going be an issue of international concern. There is no alternative that people can just forget this issue and say, ‘You know what, it is just going to work itself out.’ It is only going to get more difficult over time.”
Mr. Rhodes understood there was little chance of achieving a negotiated two-state solution before Mr. Obama left office in 2017. Nevertheless, in the waning days of the administration, he urged the President and Mr. Netanyahu to discuss “what steps everybody can contribute to maintaining the viability of the two-state solution for the future.”
Just recently, in an interview with Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Mr. Obama blatantly blamed Mr. Netanyahu for failing to implement a two-state solution because, the President said, the Prime Minister “is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.”
The New York Times echoed this view in an editorial criticizing Mr. Netanyahu for not advancing the peace process. The paper claimed the Israeli Prime Minister “has never shown a serious willingness on that front.” This, the paper said, “is made clear by his expansion of Israeli settlements, which reduce the land available for a Palestinian state.”
Highlighting the Hypocrisy
Brett Stephens, foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal, has often highlighted the hypocrisy, pointing out that, if the objective had been to halt the bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians, why hadn’t any senior Western leader demanded that Mr. Abbas correct the record about the Al Aqsa Mosque and make it clear that, contrary to the Palestinian leader’s incitement, no Israeli leader has ever made any attempt to “take over” Muslim holy sites.
In Hebron, Muslims have been forced to share the Cave of the Patriarchs with Jewish worshippers in separate spaces, but no one has stopped Muslims from worshipping there, too. The Palestinians have made clear that sharing sacred spaces, including even allowing Jews to walk on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is tantamount to “desecration.”
“Palestinian tantrums are sanctified tantrums. The violence they breed might be condemned, but the narrative on which they rest has the status of holy writ. It is no more to be questioned than the Quran is to be burned,” said Mr. Stephens.
Mr. Stephens’s summed up Mr. Rhodes’s misguided understanding of the conflict and his specious moral equivalence: “How sweet it would be if all Israel had to do to make peace was dismantle its settlements. How much sweeter if the American President would find less to fault with an Israeli government’s housing policies than a Palestinian political culture still so intent on killing Jews. If Mr. Obama wants to know why he’s so disliked by Israelis, there’s the reason.”
Refusal to Accept Facts
In light of Palestinian Arab intransigence and hostility, Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, recently asked why Mr. Obama and publications such as the New York Times refuse to accept facts.
“Is it because doing so would require acknowledging they have misjudged Netanyahu and the Palestinian Arabs, and were wrong about the settlements as an impediment to peace?” asked Mr. Tobin.
He noted that, when given a choice between their fantasies and dealing with the realities of the conflict, “the administration and its fans always choose the fantasy.”
“Seen from that perspective, it’s clear it doesn’t really matter what Netanyahu does. Nothing he or the Palestinians can do is capable of forcing the President to give up his myths about the Middle East. So long as that is true, why should Israel’s enemies give up theirs?” he said.