Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of March 28, 2000

A DEAL IN VAIN

By Evelyn Gordon

Although a majority of Israelis now support much more far-reaching concessions than ever before, Palestinians still insist on all or nothing.

The fact that talks on a final-status agreement with the Palestinians resumed last week in Washington might seem rather uninteresting. After all, talks with the Palestinians have been occurring on and off for the last seven years.

Yet the event is noteworthy in light of an extraordinary document published by 120 Palestinian academics, intellectuals, artists, and legislators the week before. This document, entitled "An open letter to the Israeli and Jewish public," bluntly warns that any compromise Israel might reach with the Palestinian Authority will not lead to peace. "What is being contrived today is not peace, but the seeds of future wars," the letter declared.

The signatories explained that even if Israel and the PA sign an agreement, it will not be accepted by the Palestinian public. Instead, it will propel the outraged Palestinians to violence, which other Arab states might join.

There are only two types of agreements that might avert such an outcome, the letter said. "The first solution is based on the establishment of a Palestinian state, with complete sovereignty over the lands occupied by Israel in1967 with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the recognition by Israel of the historic injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people. The second solution is the establishment of one binational democratic state for the two peoples on the historic land of Palestine."

There are three points worth noting about this document. The first is that the two solutions it offers are ideas that even the overwhelming majority of the Israeli left considers unacceptable. In other words, the authors see no chance for compromise; for the Palestinians, the only acceptable "solution" is unconditional Israeli capitulation.

The second point is that both proposals are identical to what the Palestinians were demanding when talks began seven years ago. Over this period, public opinion in Israel has shifted radically, and a majority of Israelis now support much more far-reaching concessions than would have been dreamed of a decade ago. But the Palestinians have made no concomitant steps in Israel's direction: They are still insisting on all or nothing.

The final point is that both proposals threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. The second "solution" would end the Jewish state explicitly; the first would merely create the possibility of doing so, through the mechanism of an unlimited right of return.

ACCORDING TO the Palestinians, there are about 3.5 million refugees (though Israel puts the figure much lower, its figure would undoubtedly not be accepted in any agreement along these lines). It is unclear how many would actually want to return to Israel to live - but they wouldn't necessarily have to live here in order to determine the country's future.

The phrase "right of return" is no accident; those who demand it will accept no less than what is granted to Jews under the Law of Return - automatic citizenship, which once bestowed remains valid even if the recipient later leaves the country. Under such an arrangement, all the refugees would have to do is come here to claim their citizenship, go back home, and then get back on a plane come election day in order to use Israel's own democratic rules to substantially alter its character.

The letter's authors may simply be living in a fantasy land. But if one credits them with any grasp of Palestinian reality, then "peace" could be achieved only via solutions that most Israelis consider unacceptable. More specifically, it could be achieved only by ending Israel's character as a Jewish state - without which there would be no point to the peace, because there would be no reason for the country's existence at all.

Already, we have given the Palestinians land, an army, and international recognition - and if the war predicted by the letter's authors does come, all of these will serve to make Israel far more vulnerable than it would otherwise have been.

Obviously, it is too late to retract what has already been given. But now that the cream of Palestinian society has informed us that all our gifts will be in vain, where is the sense in continuing to give - especially when this will only weaken us further?

This is a question the government does not seem to have considered before sending its delegation to Washington. The formula the Palestinians themselves insisted on was land for peace. If Yasser Arafat cannot deliver the promised peace, it is foolish to continue giving him the land.

(c) Jerusalem Post 2000



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