In the December, 1997 issue of Commentary Daniel Pipes, the editor of the Middle East Quarterly, wrote an article "On Arab Rejectionism" where he clearly demonstrated that Arab's hatred of Israel has not ceased. Stressing that magnanimity is much more damaging than toughness, he wrote:
"Instead of conveying good faith, concessions communicate a sense of vulnerability and weakness, either whetting the appetite for more concessions or abetting a paranoid fantasy that Israel's efforts at reconciliation are part of a plot; after all, for what honest reason would a strong power behave as if it were weak?"
Unfortunately Israel keeps walking along the path of this defeatist policy. On February 24, 1998 Ma'ariv reported that "in secret contacts currently being held by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the possibility of dramatically changing the original Oslo agreement timetable is being examined. The aim is to find a way to settle the remainder of the interim agreement and then announce a "timeout" in which the two sides will try to establish a relationship of trust. Only after this is achieved will final arrangement talks be launched." As the Oslo agreement expires in May 1999 it is hard to picture that the "relationship of trust" can be established in a year's time. The optimists should recall that the public opinion poll conducted among the Palestinian Arabs on February 14, 1998 showed that 77.2% among them supported an Iraqi strike on Israel, should the United States strike against Iraq.
Arab animosity towards the Jewish state has a long history. It is based on adamant Arab rejection of Israel's "historical connection with Palestine." For the Arabs the Jews are "occupiers." The Arabs are masters at creating myths that become incorporated into their beliefs. The "holiness" of Jerusalem for the Arabs can serve as a good example. Professor of history James Parks wrote in the book Whose Land?:
"The association of the Jews with The Land is a historical fact, whether one believes that association to be the result of divine decision or not. But the association of Muhammad with the country rests on willingness to believe that in a single night, and on a winged horse, Muhammad flew to and from Arabia in order that he might then mount by a ladder for a personal view of the heavens. The eventhas to be accepted as it stands, or there remains no evidence whatever associating Muhammad with Jerusalem."
In the same manner, ignoring the facts, the Arabs are "willing to believe" that the Jews are "occupiers, usurpers and colonialists". All Arab demands are derived from the stand that the Jewish presence in Palestine is illegitimate. It is this kind of thinking that was demonstrated by, George Habash, one of the PLO's leaders, in an interview with the newspaper Free Arab Voice on February 15, 1998. He said, "A good reading of the contents of these [Oslo] agreements reveals their truth in the way of unacceptable concessions from recognizing Israel's right to exist, to amending the Palestinian National Charter." It is these concessions that Palestinian Legislative Council Secretary Rawhi Fattuh had in mind when, on February 4, 1998, he said in an interview to the London Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat,
"I do not think that there will be any more concession to offer. Arafat told President Clinton "No" twice at the White House, that is he refused all concessions and settlements which deprive us of our right to establish an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital within the 1967 border lines and to solve the problem of refugees."
While Israel contemplates new good will gestures (opening of Gaza airport and seaport) and prepares to lose more lands of Yesha (Ariel Sharon tailors a 9% withdrawal) the PLO toughens its stand. On February 9, 1998, Palestinian Authority's Minister Nabil Sha'ath reiterated the PLO's position when he told Paris Radio Monte Carlo prior to his departure to Washington for talks with US State Department officials, "The Israelis must withdraw in full and return to the 5 June 1967 lines. Anything else is unsuitable for any negotiations. This should be accompanied by a halt to settlements and implementation of what remains of the transitional agreement."There is nothing new to the Arab position. It has not changed since they were defeated in the Six-Day War. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat presented it when he made the historic visit to Jerusalem. Speaking in the Knesset on November 20, 1977, he said,
"You should clearly understand the lesson of confrontation between you and us To speak frankly, our land does not yield itself to bargaining; it is not even open to argument. To us, the nation's land is equal to the holy valley where God Almighty spoke to Moses We cannot accept any attempt to take away or accept to seek one inch of it nor can we accept the principle of debating or bargaining over it. "
If the "nation's land" is so precious to the Arabs how is it possible that Eretz Yisrael is not at least equally precious to the Jews? If President Sadat felt appropriate to invoke God's name defending his right to his nation's land isn't it thousand times more appropriate for the Jews to recall the Covenant?Yasser Arafat complains that Israel does not have a Constitution, which is why, he says, he is not obliged to amend the PLO Charter. Let us make the PLO Chairman happy and adopt a Constitution to be the Supreme Law of the Jewish state. In a multitude of articles Professor Paul Eidelberg, the champion of this idea, has unquestionably proved that a Constitution is needed. Let the Constitution declare that "the Land of Israel, of which the State is only the custodian, belongs exclusively and eternally to the Jewish People" and "no land under Israel's sovereignty may be surrendered to any foreign power." If the wording suggested by Prof. Eidelberg, is a part of the Constitution, all "debating and bargaining" about Yesha will automatically stop.
The Arab leaders have another complaint. They say that Israel is the only state in the world that did not declare its borders. Let us satisfy this request too. Let us constitutionally establish the borders of the Jewish state. Let there be a separate article in the Constitution that will describe the borders of the country. Alas, today Israel is a bleak shadow of a former Hebrew state. It occupies a small portion of Eretz Yisrael. While God promised all of it to the Jewish people the great part of it was shamefully forfeited due to indecisiveness, spinelessness, vacillating and lack of faith. The only way to prevent squandering the remains of Judea, Samaria and Gaza is to constitutionally specify them as inseparable parts of the State of Israel.
When the relationship between the Land of Israel and the People of Israel are constitutionally legitimized, all the claims of the Palestinian Arabs to the right of return, self-determination, an independent state, Jerusalem, and removing settlements will automatically become an inadmissible interference into internal Israeli affairs.
The step that needs to be made for the transition from existing Israeli laws to the suggested constitutional legislation is really not a big one. Israeli attorney Howard Grief in a February 20, 1998 Internet posting recalled that there is an Israeli law that was passed in September of 1948. It is called The Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance. As Grief explained, "by reason of its content and purpose, it officially annulled the Jewish Agency's acceptance of the UN Partition Plan frontiers of November 29, 1947. The basic premise or assumption of this law is that the Land of Israel in its entirety is the eternal and exclusive possession of the Jewish People forever under its de jure sovereignty, in all circumstances and at all times, even if de facto sovereignty, in the practical sense, is lost briefly or for a long period over a part or over the whole of the Land of Israel. This law not only envisages the eventual unity of all parts of the Land of Israel with the State of Israel, it actually provides the legal means and sanction to bring it about."
It remains necessary to summarize the situation. There is a law currently in force, a law of the State of Israel according to which "no area of the Land of Israel as soon as it comes into the effective and permanent possession of the State can be legally ceded to the control of a foreign nation or entity." There is no contradiction between this law and UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. As Martin Indyk grudgingly explained on February 17, 1998 in the Worldnet Interview on Iraq "both those resolutions provide for negotiations. They are not mandatory they are not self-implementing. They lay out the principles that should govern peace negotiations -- direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors."
Putting it differently, Israel has all the legal rights to keep the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in her possession. Therefore any land Israel gives to the PLO is given absolutely voluntarily. It is a gift that the Israeli government chooses to give to the Palestinian Arabs. It is the concession that "communicates a sense of vulnerability and weakness, whetting the appetite for more." [03/06/98]
Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.