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I was at the United Nations on Friday when President Abbas made his speech demanding full recognition of Palestine as a state with the borders as they existed just before the Jordanians and Palestinians attacked Israel. In other words he wants a “do over.” He wants the nations that attacked Israel to suffer no consequences for their attempt to destroy the Jewish State. He wants to get back The Western Wall, The Jewish Quarter, and the access road to Hebrew University. Only then will he begin negotiations from this position of strength. But why then negotiate if the UN gives him more than he can possibly get through negotiation? Will he be in a position to seek less from Israel than what the UN gave him? Will he survive if he is seen as less Palestinian than the UN? Abbas blamed Israel for the self-inflicted wound the Palestinians cynically call the Nakba (the catastrophe). He denied the Jewish history of the land of Israel and he quoted with approval his terrorist predecessor Arafat. He refused to acknowledge Israel’s legitimate security needs. Abbas’s message, in sum, left little or no room for further compromise.
I also sat in the General Assembly as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to begin negotiations with Abbas, with absolutely no preconditions, in New York, at the United Nations, that very day. He said he would come to Ramallah to negotiate with him or keep the door of his Jerusalem office open. He did not even require as a precondition to negotiations that the Palestinians acknowledge what the UN recognized in 1947—namely, that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Although many in the international communities and on the editorial pages of newspapers claim that Abbas wants to negotiate a two-state solution, while Netanyahu has refused to do so, the truth was on full and open display at the General Assembly on Friday: Netanyahu wants to negotiate a peace now, whereas Abbas wants to win recognition from the United Nations before any negotiations begin. As Netanyahu put it: “Let’s stop negotiating about negotiating and let’s just start negotiating right now.”
If the Palestinians accept Netanyahu’s offer to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution, it will get a real state on the ground—a state that Israel, the United States, and the rest of the international community will recognize. It will not be on the pre-1967 borders because the Palestinians are not entitled to such borders and because such borders are not conducive to peace, but it will be close. The Palestinians will get a viable state and Israel will get a secure state.
If, on the other hand, the UN were to reward nearly a century of Palestinian rejectionism and violence by simply turning the clock back to 1967 (or 1947), it will be encouraging more cost-free rejectionism and violence. The Palestinians must pay a price for the thousands of lives their rejectionism and violence have caused. The price must not be so heavy as to preclude peace, but it must be heavy enough to deter war.
This article originally appeared in The New Republic.
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