Aliyah Magazine in deciding to publish this article wishes to draw attention to the present divide. Today, even many right wing Jewish ideologists are open to a peaceful understanding with local Arabs, although without the land for peace scenario that has plagued many previous Israeli governments. There is close to a common consensus amongst most Israelis that peaceful co-existence is desirable on a simplistic ‘peace for peace’ formula. However, the searching question appears to remain what the present Palestinian leadership really wants, and to what degree they have the support of their population to achieve that? This following academic article clearly underlines the measures needed to achieve any long term understanding, and in particular just how realistically one can expect such changes to occur.
By Dr. Max Singer
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel will not be able to make peace with the Palestinians until the Palestinian community gives up its goal of destroying Israel. The Palestinians will abandon this goal only when they are convinced that there is no way they can succeed. Israel’s goal must be peace, and the most important ways to work towards peace are: resettling the Palestinian “refugees” outside of Israel; encouraging reform in the Palestinian education system and speaking the truth to the Palestinians regarding the Jews’ ancient roots in the land; reducing the ability of Palestinian leaders to personally benefit from the conflict; and encouraging free debate in Palestinian society.
Is the Palestinian Community Willing to Make Peace Today?
The international community often blames Israel when negotiations with the Palestinians stall. “Peace” in this context means the end of the Palestinian struggle to destroy Israel. There is overwhelming evidence to the effect that the Palestinian community is not currently willing to make peace with Israel and still hopes to destroy the Jewish state. A realistic peace effort must therefore be aimed at changing the factors that encourage Palestinian rejection of Israel.
Palestinian support for the “two-state solution” is not support for peace, but rather a ploy to force Israel to take in the “refugees,” the Palestinian instrument for ending Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Nor is the Saudi “peace plan” support for peace either, as it too demands that Israel take the “refugees” and rejects any negotiations.
In addition, there is no internal Palestinian debate about the conditions for peace, or about accepting the return of a symbolic number of “refugees,” because no Palestinian dares to say to his fellow countrymen that real peace should be made with Israel. The Palestinian position vis-à-vis a Jewish state has been one of complete rejection and unwillingness to compromise. Only when a group or movement among the Palestinians advocating giving up this position in favor of peace arises and emerges victorious will we know that peace is at least a possibility.
What Can Be Done for the Sake of Peace?
Though it does not look like peace can be achieved today, a solution with the Palestinians must still be Israel’s long-term goal. Israel must be prepared to work to change the obstacles that stand in the way of making peace.
The main foci necessary to encourage the Palestinians to abandon the goal of eliminating Israel are: (1) resettling the Palestinian “refugees” outside of Israel; (2) combating the radical Islamist ideology that has pervaded the Palestinian education system; (3) reducing monetary aid to Palestinian leaders who remain opposed to peace; and (4) increasing freedoms among the Palestinian people to enable them to freely debate the issue.
Resettling Palestinian “Refugees” Outside of Israel
The most important practical measure that the United States and its allies can take to implement this strategy is to resettle the Palestinian “refugees.” Unlike the refugees from the 1940s – including Jewish refugees from Arab countries – who have long been resettled in other countries, the Palestinian “refugees” and their descendants are mostly kept in camps and prevented from living a normal life, pawns in a game to destroy Israel. Such abuse of the rights of these “refugees” is mostly paid for by the US and other Western democracies. Peace with Israel is not possible until these “refugees” are resettled. The leading Western nations have the power to start the process and resettle the “refugees,” giving the Palestinians one less excuse to reject a peace agreement.
Combating Radical Islamist Ideology in the Palestinian Education System
Since 1979 there has been a decisive change in the political discourse of the Arab and Muslim world, simultaneously produced by the revolutionary Shiite regime in Iran and the monarchy in Saudi Arabia that exports the hardline Wahhabi and Salafi versions of Islam. These regimes believe in spreading Islam throughout the world and have come to dominate the public discussion, silencing moderate voices in the process. This extremist ideology
plays a prominent role in the Palestinian education system, creating an environment that teaches hate and encourages war. Israel and the West must continue to encourage education reform in the Palestinian community and insist that Palestinian schoolchildren not be educated to hate Israel. In addition, the Palestinians must be educated to recognize the ancient roots of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and their rights to a national homeland.
Reducing Aid to Leaders Who Reject Peace
The Palestinian Authority receives billions of dollars of foreign aid annually, either directly from Western nations (such as the US) or through UN-sponsored programs. The Palestinian leadership is able to live well and have less of a motive to work towards reaching peace with Israel. The US and its allies should make aid conditional on these leaders working to promote peace with Israel. Until their money stops flowing in, Palestinian leaders have no reason to give up their fight and reach an agreement with Israel.
Encouraging Free Debate in Palestinian Society
There exists a lack of free debate among the Palestinian people on the issue of making peace with Israel. There are no moderate Muslim voices calling for working with Israel. The Palestinian people are forced to accept the party line of the Palestinian Authority. They are denied a chance to learn the facts – that Israel has legitimate claims to the Land of Israel, that a large part of the Israeli people support peace – and therefore see no reason to change their stance. Allowing free speech and removing education restrictions would go a long way in helping the Palestinians realize the benefits of peace.
It is clear that the Palestinian unwillingness to make peace with Israel is the biggest factor as to why the peace process is currently at a stalemate. There are many steps that Israel and its allies can take to reverse the situation. It is critical that the Palestinian people change the way they view Israel and the Israeli people in order for peace to be a real possibility. Until these steps are taken, peace will remain a dream and not a reality.
Dr. Max Singer is a founder of the Hudson Institute and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
BESA Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family