Washington Post editorial writers opine under the headline “Mr. Netanyahu’s rightward shift; He says progress on a Palestinian state is still possible, but he’ll need to back such talk with action” (June 2, 2016, print edition).
Actually, no, he won’t—at least not initially. Palestinian leaders will—unless The Post wants readers to imagine Netanyahu wields a magic wand. It’s up to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of PA leadership to test the Israeli prime minister’s rhetoric. If the Palestinian side seeks, despite its repeated rejections, what is still referred to as a “two-state solution,” then it should negotiate.
But as The Post editorial concedes, obliquely enough to be missed, “Netanyahu may protest, with some reason, that Palestinian leaders have been uncompromising.” How uncompromising? The newspaper declines to elucidate. But for readers who push through the 572-word lead editorial, some missing fundamentals:
*In 2000, at Camp David, the Palestinian side, led by Yasser Arafat, rejected a U.S.-Israeli offer of a West Bank and Gaza Strip “Palestine,” with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for peace with Israel. Instead of a counter-offer, it launched the second intifada.
*In 2001, at Taba, Egypt Palestinian leaders rebuffed a similar two-state proposal and continued the intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinian Arabs died.
*In 2008, Abbas rejected a third two-state deal that included land swaps roughly compensating “Palestine” for approximately two percent of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), including the major settlement blocs, to be annexed by Israel. Again, the Palestinian side made no counter-proposal.
*In 2014, Abbas spurned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “framework” to resume negotiations with Israel leading to a two-state agreement.
*In March, 2016 Palestinian leaders likewise rebuffed an initiative with the same objective by U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden.
Oil and water; editorial and specificity
Netanyahu and new Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “a hard-line nationalist with an abysmal international reputation,” The Post writes, “made statements this week in support of a Palestinian state. …[But] such rhetorical gestures are unlikely to reduce the international pressure [on Israel] unless accompanied by actions.” Not just statements “this week” but over the years. But never mind. What sort of unilateral Israeli action, beyond the initiatives cited above and rejected by the Palestinian side, the newspaper doesn’t bother to specify.
A month before The Post’s “Mr. Netanyahu’s rightward shift” appeared, before the prime minister appointed Lieberman to head the defense ministry, Efraim Inbar, director of Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, made more pertinent observations about the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution (“Israel’s Palestinian Dilemmas,” BESA Center Perspectives, May 3). Among them:
*“Ever since the Palestinian terrorist wave began in September 2000, the Israeli body politic increasingly has resigned itself to the probability that there is no partner on the Palestinian side with which to reach a historic compromise …. The hopes for peace that were generated by the Oslo process in 1993 have been replaced by the stark realization that violent conflict will not end soon.”
*“Hostile messages about Israel purveyed in the Palestinian Authority educational system and official media leave little doubt about the rabid antisemitism prevalent in Palestinian society, which ensures that conflict with the Jews will continue.”
*“Aside from and beyond the assessment that the PA has no intention of accepting a Jewish state in any borders, the fact remains that the two sides remain far apart on most of the concrete issues to be resolved. Palestinian demands for control of the Temple Mount and the so-called ‘right-of-return’, for example, are insurmountable obstacles.”
*“Any pragmatic impulse that might otherwise have emerged in Palestinian politics is consistently countered by Hamas, whose growing influence reflects the Islamist tide … surging across” the Middle East.
*And, “the assumption the Palestinians are capable of establishing a state within the parameters of a two-state paradigm has not been validated.” “Palestine” under current Palestinian leaders is more likely to mirror “the inability of other Arab societies in the region to sustain statist structures.” In other words, “Palestine” would be more likely to resemble if not “Syriapal” then “Libyastine.”
A Washington Post editorial facing this possibility might be worth reading. It would question why, in the words of “Mr. Netanyahu’s rightward shift,” “Western powers, including the United States [and France], will soon launch a multilateral effort to formulate a plan for Palestinian statehood” outside Israeli and Palestinian commitments to direct negotiations. Such a commentary would buck conventional wisdom—and the Palestinian strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict with Israel so as to impose a debilitating outcome on the Jewish state. It would deserve the unwarranted prominence given “Mr. Netanyahu’s rightward shift.”