When will they finally accept the Jewish people's right to their historic homeland?
- By Moshe Ya'alonMoshe Ya'alon is Israel's vice premier and minister of strategic affairs.
The Middle East peace process is once again stalled, while Palestinian leaders sadly continue to propagate the myth that Israeli construction impedes progress. Only last Friday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in Washington that "the Israeli government had a choice between settlements and peace, and they chose settlements."
Unfortunately, what stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire. But instead of concluding a deal with Israel, they have demonstrated a total unwillingness to compromise, often favoring terrorism, as witnessed in the barrage of terrorist attacks that followed the Camp David negotiations of 2000. Is it any wonder Israelis find it ever more difficult to trust the Palestinians?
If there is to be a stable and lasting peace, Israel’s recognition of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination — which successive Israeli governments have affirmed — cannot go unreciprocated. The Jewish people are no less entitled to a state in their homeland, the land of Israel, or to their right to defend it.
The fundamental problem is that the Palestinians continue to reject these inherent rights of the Jewish people. That’s indeed why we do not yet have two states for two peoples: The Palestinians remain steadfast in their refusal to accept that there even exists a Jewish nation that lays legitimate claim to its land. They reject the entire premise of a state for the Jewish people — not only beyond the pre-1967 lines of the state of Israel, but even within its original 1948 boundaries. This, of course, explains why the Palestinians did not pursue independence prior to 1967, when Israel was within the 1949 Armistice lines.
This fact becomes perfectly clear when observing how Palestinian leaders educate their own people. The language of hate is the vernacular of choice for the official Palestinian media, which indoctrinates its audience with the narrative that Jews have usurped their land and have no business being here — and not just in Hebron or Ariel, but even in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Palestinian television is notorious for broadcasting what amounts to classic incitement — parading about children who glorify the use of weapons to destroy Israel and accusing Jews of "stealing" cities such as Haifa, which even the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 included as part of the Jewish state.
There is no chance that peace can come to the region as long as the Palestinians continue to spew this sort of vitriol. The only way forward must involve a bottom-up approach in which Palestinians develop the type of civil discourse that is a prerequisite to reconciliation. Schoolchildren in the Palestinian Authority must be taught to respect the human dignity of their Jewish neighbors, just as Israeli youths are instructed to be tolerant of others — including Palestinians — with whom they may not agree. And all Palestinians must come to terms, once and for all, with the fact that the Jewish people will continue to exercise their historical right to sovereignty in their homeland, a sovereignty that guarantees equal rights for all of Israel’s citizens.
As for the Jewish communities over the 1967 lines, their fate should be decided in permanent status negotiations, as agreed in the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995. In the meantime, Israel has committed not to authorize any construction outside these neighborhoods in the areas under its control since 1967. It’s worth noting that in the past, Israel’s presence in areas under dispute proved not to be an obstacle to the achievement of peace with Egypt.
The fanciful "virtual reality" in which the Palestinians operate — and which they dispense for public consumption — obscures their basic responsibility for the current predicament. And it illustrates why Israel must insist on its security requirements in any future peace agreement. Israel must be able to protect itself against not only physical attack, but also the political, cultural, and strategic assault on its very legitimacy. It would simply be impossible to have a fruitful discussion concerning borders without both addressing the issue of comprehensive security and recognizing Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Israel remains committed to the cause of peace. We have no desire to govern the affairs of another people. But our acceptance of a viable Palestinian state awaits a similar Palestinian acceptance of the rights of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, recently wrote that such a step would require a modification of the Palestinian narrative. He’s absolutely right. But until this happens, there can be no chance for peace.