Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, reports that Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian legislator and member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, has told Tony Blair, former British prime minister and currently representative of the Middle East Quartet, that unless Israel stops its objectionable behavior the Palestinians won’t return to negotiations.
She was referring to two meetings that were held in Amman this month between an Israeli and a Palestinian negotiator. All accounts agree that the talks were held to appease Quartet pressure and haven’t yielded anything. Whereas Israel expresses an ongoing willingness to keep trying, PA president Mahmoud Abbas has said that if Israel does not submit to Palestinian preconditions by January 26 “all options will be open”—by which he means finalizing a deal with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leading to “popular resistance.”
What Israel has to do, Ashrawi told Blair, is stop settlement activity and precommit to the 1967 borders. She complained: “With its stepped-up illegal settlement campaign and continued efforts to create facts on the ground, Israel is undermining any and all efforts to stimulate peace.”
One notable thing here is the demand that, to enable negotiations at all, one side cede the whole store to the other. What is supposed to be in dispute, what is supposed to be the subject of negotiations, is land Israel conquered in the Six Day War of 1967. If Israel is required to agree beforehand that it is illegal to build a single Jewish home anywhere in this land, and that it does not have valid claim to an inch of it, it is not clear what is the point of negotiations or what they are supposed to be about.
And another notable thing is that the Palestinian preconditions imply a curious new international norm: that when one side is attacked, it has to hand back to the attacker(s) everything that party(ies) may have lost, so that the attacker suffers no penalty whatsoever for having carried out aggression in the first place.
On the morning of June 5, 1967, as the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi armies closed in, Israel launched a preemptive strike that saved it from obliteration. In the preceding weeks—among other such statements—Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had said, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel”; Syrian defense minister (later prime minister) Hafez Assad had said, “I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation”; Iraqi president Abdur Rahman Aref had said, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear—to wipe Israel off the map.”
By June 10, 1967, the Six Day War was over and Israel had conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt. According to both simple moral logic and international precedent, Israel was under no obligation to return any of the land that was supposed to serve as a springboard for a final, annihilatory attack. For instance, Germany, as a consequence of its aggression in World War II, permanently lost land to Poland and Russia.
Israel, however, was ready to give back land it had conquered—but not all of it, and only in return for peace. In November 1967 that position was ratified in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which became the agreed basis for Arab-Israeli negotiations and spoke of Israel withdrawing from “territories”—but not “the territories” or “all territories”—in return for “termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and “secure and recognized boundaries.”
The present Palestinian preconditions for negotiations with Israel, then, which they have been ritually pronouncing since abandoning the path of negotiations almost three years ago, directly flout elementary moral logic of not rewarding the side of the aggressor, and make a mockery of Resolution 242. The fact that European political actors parrot similar claims about the supposed “illegality” of all Jewish life over the 1967 lines, and that last May President Obama, too, broke precedent with all previous U.S. policy and called for an Israeli return to those lines, is a sobering lesson for Israel about how much stock to put in international commitments and documents.
The Palestinians, though, add stunning hypocrisy to the perversity. On Wednesday Palestinian Media Watch reported that Palestinian Authority TV had for the seventh time broadcast a song that lays claim not only to all the post-1967 lands but to Israel within the 1967 borders as well (“Jaffa, Acre, Haifa, and Nazareth are ours…Tiberias and Ashkelon are Palestinian”)—a message in which the PA indoctrinates all Palestinian youngsters from the cradle.
Clearly, then, Palestinian intolerance for any Israeli presence over the 1967 lines is Palestinian intolerance for any Israeli presence at all. Is the Quartet—comprised of the U.S., the EU, the UN, and Russia—really blind to something so obvious?
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