“Those who don’t learn history,” the philosopher George Santayana famously intoned, “are doomed to repeat it.” The oft-quoted adage certainly applies to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But the history of that conflict can’t properly be understood, nor the likelihood of its resolution truly gauged, until the media stop ignoring and omitting the long history of Palestinians rejecting reasonable U.S. and Israeli peace offers.
On June 24, 2018, Jared Kushner, the senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, announced that the U.S. would soon be presenting a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Kushner’s comments prompted both speculation and media frenzy. Less widely noted, however, was the immediate response by the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and is led by Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah movement.
As the Middle East Media Research Institute has documented, the PA and Fatah have in no uncertain terms voiced their disdain for a peace plan, irrespective of what it might contain. MEMRI, a nonprofit organization that monitors Arab, Iranian, and Russian media, noted that Fatah official Jamal Muhaisin has publicly denounced the unreleased plan as “the American crime of our era.” Muhaisin has even met with Fatah branches in the West Bank in order to plan “The March of Refusal of the Deal of the Century.”
Fatah has also published and distributed posters proclaiming, among other things, “Palestine is not for sale” and “The Deal of the Century will not thwart the will of Palestine.”
An announcement posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page said that the movement hopes “to clarify the dangers posed by this deal, which is known to be a bad deal, and explain how it can destroy our national cause [by] proposing alternative solutions that circumvent the Palestinian people’s eternal rights [in favor of] humanitarian gestures and economic enticements.”
Opposition to the yet-unseen peace plan has seemingly been approved at the highest levels of the PA government. Numerous top Fatah operatives have proclaimed a refusal to accept any proposal put forward by the U.S. — despite the fact that the U.S. is a chief benefactor of the PA and was, in large measure, responsible for its creation.
Some major Western news outlets, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, and others, have quoted PA officials, such as peace negotiator Saeb Erekat, who oppose any U.S.-presented plan. However, many in the media have failed to note the full extent of Fatah’s preemptive and well-organized anti-peace campaign. Worse still, the press has frequently misled about the reasons behind Fatah’s opposition.
Several newspapers, including the Washington Post, have claimed that “by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” — that is, by belatedly implementing the bipartisan 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act — the U.S. effectively gave Fatah a reason to oppose future peace negotiations. This, however, forgets recent history.
In fact, the PA has repeatedly rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for peace and a Palestinian state — and they were doing so long before the December 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In 2000, at Camp David, in 2001 at Taba, and in 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, among other instances, the PA refused without even so much as a counteroffer U.S. and Israeli proposals for a Palestinian state in exchange for peace with and recognition of the Jewish state.
In a March 27, 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera, Fatah official Erekat — who has been widely and uncritically quoted in media accounts blaming the U.S. for failed peace efforts — hailed Abbas’ decision to reject the 2008 offer.
More recently, PA President Abbas spurned 2014 and 2016 U.S. attempts to restart negotiations. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting documented, news outlets like the Washington Post failed to cover the latter instance of the Authority once again snubbing Israeli and U.S. negotiators.
Instead of accepting a Palestinian state, the PA has refused U.S. and Israeli demands to quit paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families. Abbas has been unmoved by recent U.S. and Israeli legislation that makes aid contingent on the authority ceasing their so-called “pay-to-slay” policy. In July 23, 2018 remarks, Abbas called imprisoned terrorists “pioneers” and “stars.” He defiantly exhorted: “If we had only a single penny left, we would pay it to families of the martyrs and prisoners.”
Yet, many media accounts blaming the U.S. for Palestinian rejectionism present U.S. aid cuts as a legitimate Palestinian grievance — often failing to tell readers that the PA, the prospective peace partner, is choosing to pay terrorists instead of negotiating peace.
The PA and its leaders have a long and tragic history of rejecting peace and proliferating terror, irrespective of who sits in the White House. And the press, responsible in large measure for crafting the first draft of history, would do well to record it.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared in The Washington Examiner on July 31, 2018)