Just Taking “No” for an Answer

Photo: BILAL HUSSEIN AP PHOTO

The late Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban, is famously quoted with saying, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Of course, at the time he said this, after the 1967 War, there was no such entity as the Palestinian people, but this adage is particularly germane to the Palestinians today.

This week, the “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” convened in Bahrain. The Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan for the Palestinians was rolled out this week. Ahead of the conference, the Trump administration released a 40-page document describing a 50 billion dollar investment plan in the region, more than half going directly to the Palestinians, and the other half going to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner, opened up the conference by calling the plan “the deal of the century” that the Palestinians should take advantage of, “What we have developed” he said, “is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East. We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.”

Unfortunately, once again, the Palestinian leadership chose victimhood, rather than prosperity for their people. Rather than taking responsibility for their own fate, they continue to play the “victim card.”

This has been the response of the Palestinians ever since the Peel Commission Plan of 1937, then of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, the Rogers Plan of 1969, the exceedingly generous Clinton plan presented at Camp David in August of 2000, and the even more generous Ehud Olmert Peace offer of 2008.

The most recent plan put forward by Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinian leader Ehud Barak 98% of the land they wanted, (with land swaps around the Jerusalem corridor for the Negev), a division of Jerusalem and a “right of return” of approximately 150,000 refugees into Israel.

How did Mahmoud Abbas react to this? By initiating a renewed intifada.

The Trump administration had decided to “think outside the box” and rather than go back to that same, tired old refrain of “land or peace” they focused on trying a different route, the economic route, of “peace through prosperity”. However, I am sorry to say that their understanding of the Palestinian leadership is profoundly flawed. The premise underlying the Trump plan is that peace can be bought through economic prosperity.

However, as John F. Kennedy had said, “Peace does not depend on signed documents and charters alone, but in the hearts and minds of the People.” As long as the hearts and minds of the Palestinians have been so inebriated with a culture of hatred, they will prefer for their people to starve, rather than accepting living a peaceful life alongside Israel.

The response from the Palestinian leader has been an indignant one. “We Palestinians cannot be bought off.” The leadership of the Palestinian Authority refused to show up at the conference. And as I write this, there are hordes of Palestinians in the streets of Gaza and Judea and Samaria burning pictures of President Trump in effigy.

There comes a time when we in the West will have to realize that we have got to take “no” for an answer.

About the author  ⁄ Sarah Stern

Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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