In September 1993, when Yasser Arafat was recast from the role of “granddaddy of terrorism” to that of “peacemaker,” the Oslo Accords were marketed to the Israeli public and to world Jewry wrapped in the package of “reversibility.” I remember clearly when a friend of mine, a leftist television personality, assured me: “Don’t worry, Sarah. We will be watching Arafat very closely. It all depends on his compliance with our strict guidelines. He has to stop all the incitement and all the terror. It’s only Gaza and Jericho first. If it doesn’t work, we can always go back and retrieve it.”
That was 21 years ago. Since then, not a day goes by without another fiery Palestinian Authority incident of incitement (painstakingly documented and broadcast to the world by the good work of Palestinian Media Watch). This hatred has metastasized like a cancer and an entire generation has grown up steeped in it. The horrific result is the vast number of Israelis murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.
This past week Khalil Shikaki from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted a poll which indicated that a full 80 percent of Palestinians support stepping up violent attacks against Israelis, including random stabbings and traffic attacks. Over 86 percent believe that Haram al-Sharif (or the Temple Mount, where Al-Aqsa mosque is located) is in danger.
That comes as no surprise because 93 percent of Palestinians consider themselves to be religious Muslims, and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority has been constantly stirring up hysteria that “the Jews are desecrating Haram al-Sharif.”
Although the Oslo Accords were presented as conditional, successive Israeli governments have upheld them, despite the steady stream of constant, daily incitement and increasing number of what the Left used to euphemistically call “korbanot shel shalom” (“victims of peace”).
We Jews seem to have gotten ourselves deeper and deeper into a hole. And many of our leaders do not seem to understand the basic philosophy that “when you are in a hole, you should stop digging.”
American presidents, politicians and diplomats have consistently argued that “Israeli-Palestinian negotiations should be left up to parties themselves.”
Which brings us to Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett’s spirited debate with Martin Indyk at the Brookings Institute’s Saban Forum last week. Bennett courageously uttered the words: “We’re stuck in the conventional directions that we’ve been working on over the past three decades. There’s only one game [foreign policy paradigm] in town and that is a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel. Now, regardless of whether you support it or not, the reality is, it’s not working. It’s not working.”
The outcry from American journalists and officials, who have based their careers on the success of the peace process and the two-state paradigm, was so intense one would have thought Bennett had said something highly irresponsible, such as that Arabs are the descendants of apes and pigs (a remark that official Palestinian Authority media frequently uses to describe Jews).
After all, this is supposed to be a “peace process.” The operative word here is “peace.” How dare we dictate anything to the Israelis, who are forced to live with the deadly consequences of this obviously flawed foreign policy paradigm? How can we presume to know better than they what it is that the Israelis can actually live with?
The premise of “land for peace,” which has dominated American foreign policy and the its attitude toward Israel over the last two decades, might well work in the West when dealing with a land dispute between the United States and Mexicans or Canadians. But it is patently obvious, when listening to the inflammatory rhetoric that comes directly out of the mouths of Palestinian Authority officials, that they have never laid down the societal groundwork for peace, but rather for its very opposite.
This has been going on for over a generation. Words and ideas matter. These hateful words have seeped deep into the consciousness of an entire generation of Palestinians. They lead to tragedies like the recent attack at the Har Nof synagogue in which four Israelis were killed while reciting morning prayers (and a Druze policeman was killed coming to their aid); or earlier this week, when an Israeli family of five stopped to pick up a hitchhiker in Judea and Samaria and was subjected to an acid attack; or in October when a three-month-old, the first child for a couple who had endured years of infertility, was murdered when a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into a group of Israelis waiting at a light rail station in Jerusalem.
For some, in America, this is merely a statistic. But for Israelis and Jews, this was somebody’s father, somebody’s mother, somebody’s brother, sister or child. Israel is a tiny country. By now there is hardly anyone in the country who does not personally know someone wounded or murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.
If this were a scientific experiment, we would have reached the null hypothesis a long time ago, and realized it was time to go back to the drawing board.
Whether or not one agrees with Bennett, it is impossible not to admire his moral courage and intellectual honesty for publicly declaring something every Israeli and every Palestinian already knows. He is like the little boy in the story who, in front of everyone, points to the naked monarch and declares: The emperor wears no clothes!
As Bennett said, “Let’s stop looking at perfection, the ideal dream of two states living side by side in peace and democracy. Let’s stop talking perfection that has led us to disaster.”
Yet Indyk, who has made a career out of the peace process industry, had the audacity to tell him, “You are talking pure mythology. … You live in another reality. … You live in what Steve Jobs called ‘a distorted reality.'”
Bennett responded with, “This is quite a sentence. I have been through the First Intifada, the Second Intifada. You attend conferences. I have been on the ground there. How many missiles have to fall on Ashkelon until you wake up? How many people need to die before you wake up from this illusion? When will you say you were wrong?”
Bennett deserves high praise for injecting a bit of reality into the fantasy world that exists inside the beltway, where everyone continues to cling to the illusions of 1993. So many of our think tanks, diplomats and scholars look at the Taliban attack in a school in Pakistan or the hostage crisis in a cafe in Australia as a deplorable acts of terrorism, but when it comes to Palestinian terrorists taking the lives of Israeli citizens, our State Department officials say, “Both sides have to try harder,” as Secretary of State John Kerry said at a press conference in London this week.
This is a hypocritical double standard that no one but Israel would be expected to endure. When people impose a standard on Israel, the Jewish state, that they would never impose on themselves, we have one word for it and that word is anti-Semitism.
Sometimes this anti-Semitism comes directly out of the mouths of Jews. Two thousand years of living in the Diaspora has had an indelible effect on our collective psyche. Many Jews are self-conscious of their Judaism, and want the love of the world so desperately that they have to prove to the world how liberal and broad minded they are … at the expense of their own Israeli brothers and sisters.
I could never understand how anyone sitting in a comfortable living room on this side of the Atlantic, never knowing what it is like to constantly fear for their lives and never worrying about having 60 seconds or less to gather the entire family and hide from incoming missiles, can claim to know better than the Israelis about what is good for them.
This gives new meaning to the definition of the term “chutzpah.”
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop in Washington.
Article originally appeared at https://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=10973
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