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The decision by the Obama Administration to stop pressuring Israel to end the West Bank settlements in order to get the Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiations table, should not obscure the following sad reality: The fact that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has not ended is largely, if not entirely, the fault of the Palestinian leadership. This may sound counter-intuitive, since it is Israel that is continuing to occupy the West Bank, but it has been the Palestinian leadership that has repeatedly refused to accept Israel’s offers to end the occupation. It was recently revealed that in 2008, the Israeli government again offered to end the occupation, and once again the Palestinian leadership failed to accept the offer. This is what the Associated Press reported on November 27, 2010.
Since leaving office, [Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert has confirmed that he made Israel’s most far-reaching offer to the Palestinians, proposing a Palestinian state on close to 94 percent of the West Bank and offering the equivalent of the final 6 percent of territory in a land “swap.”
Olmert said yesterday that the Palestinians never responded to his offer, made in the final months of his term in office.
“I think that they made a mistake.”
Yassir Arafat made the same mistake in 2000 and 2001 when he refused a similar offer from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and United States President Bill Clinton.
In 2005 when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon completely ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip, Hamas responded by showering thousands of rockets on Israeli civilian targets.
And now in 2010 the Palestinian leadership is refusing to sit down and negotiate with the Netanyahu government unless Israel accepts “preconditions.”
This reminds me of what Abba Eban famously said after Israel won a decisive war started by the Arabs in 1967:
“This was the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”
It is no wonder that so many Israeli citizens are skeptical about whether the Palestinian leadership is willing to make, or capable of actually making peace with Israel. This skepticism has been fueled by a recent article on the official website of the Palestinian Authority claiming that there is no hard evidence of any Jewish connection to the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Instead, it claims that “this wall is the place where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.” The Palestinian Authority article asserts that “the Al Buraq Wall is the western wall of Al Aksa, which the Zionist occupation falsely claims ownership of and calls the Wailing Wall or Kotel.” In other words, the Palestinian leadership expects Israelis to believe Muslim theological claims over Jewish archaeological evidence.
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority refuses to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and refuses to end the repeated incitements against Jews that are a staple of the Palestinian Authority controlled media.
It is also no wonder that many Israelis have concluded that the Palestinian leadership has marginalized the Palestinians. What can the P.A. now offer Israel in exchange for the end of the occupation and the division of Jerusalem? Not peace in the north, which is controlled by Iran’s wholly owned subsidiary Hezbollah. Not peace in the west, which is controlled by Hamas, another Iranian surrogate. All the Palestinian Authority can now offer Israel is peace on the relatively quiet eastern border. And it would be an uncertain and incomplete peace even with the P.A., since there is no assurance that the Palestinian Authority will retain control over the West Bank, and even if it manages to isolate Hamas in Gaza, there is no guarantee that terrorist groups will not use the West Bank as a launching pad for rockets and other forms of terrorism.
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