“The road to an Israeli-Palestinian deal is vanishing” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius proclaimed in a Jan. 30, 2018 Global Opinion commentary. But Ignatius—a long-time Middle East observer and author of several bestselling spy novels—fails to accurately identify the culprit responsible. He cites two factors: The Trump administrations Dec. 6, 2017 decision to implement the bipartisan 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, thereby recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and settlements in the West Bank. Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist and repeated rejection of peace plans are missing in the 760-word column.
Ignatius expresses his concern that “the space for compromise seems to be vanishing,” between Israelis and Palestinians. He uncritically quotes top Palestinian Authority (PA) official Saeb Erekat, who, declared that “the two state solution is dead,” after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Erekat is disingenuous. Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous U.S. and Israeli offers for statehood in exchange for peace with the Jewish state—in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. The 2008 offer would have given the Palestinians a state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem and 93% of the West Bank with land swaps to make up the difference (“Missed Opportunity: Olmert, Abbas and Media Bias,” Tablet Magazine, Nov. 23, 2015). Yet, in a 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera, Erekat cheered PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to reject the 2008 proposal
Furthermore, Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since its founding in 1948. And the idea that Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are responsible for the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace runs counter to the history of the conflict
It is the Palestinians who have refused to engage in bilateral negotiations with Israel—violating the terms of the Oslo accords that created the authority in the first place. And as The Washington Post itself noted in a Dec. 29, 2016 editorial: the Israeli government’s decision to enact a ten-month settlement freeze failed to get Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement (“On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started”). Similarly, although the Obama administration refused to implement the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act—despite a campaign promise to do so—its attempts in March 2014 and March 2016 to get Palestinian leaders to negotiate were fruitless.
Instead of talking with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has promoted the destruction of the state and the murder of its citizens; doling out $1 billion dollars in the last four years alone to terrorists and their families (“Palestinians paid $1 billion to terrorists over the last four years,” The Times of Israel, May 29, 2017). Murderers are rewarded with honorary law degrees and sports teams and streets named in their honor. PA-approved school textbooks depict maps that erase Israel and PA President Abbas has repeatedly denied the Jewish people’s historical connection to their ancestral homeland (“Missing the Palestinian after terror after-party,” The Washington Examiner, July 6, 2016).
However, the PA’s embrace of violence and its rejection of Israel’s legitimacy is omitted by Ignatius who instead chose to cast Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as the main impediment. Ignatius called settlements “the hardest problem on negotiators’ agenda” due to what he claims is their rapid expansion. However, The Post’s own coverage has noted otherwise.
A Sept. 17, 2017 Post editorial highlighted that:
“Obama and his secretary of state, John F. Kerry, were fond of proclaiming that Netanyahu was creating “an irreversible one-state reality” by continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The truth, as a former Kerry aide has demonstrated, is considerably more complicated… Of the some 600,000 settlers who live outside Israel’s internationally recognized borders, just 94,000 are outside the border-like barrier that Israel built through the West Bank a decade ago. Just 20,000 of those moved in since 2009, when Netanyahu returned to office; in a sea of 2.9 million Palestinians, they are hardly overwhelming. Last year, 43 percent of the settler population growth was just in two towns that sit astride the Israeli border—and that Abbas himself has proposed for Israeli annexation (“How Trump could save Palestinian statehood).”
Ignatius’s failure to acknowledge that the lack of a good faith Palestinian negotiating partner is a major impediment to achieving a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict renders his analysis as incomplete and deeply flawed.