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Friday, March 21, 2008

Jerusalem Post : Does PA accept premise for peace?

Not just a gimmick


The Palestinian leadership - not the one in Gaza, but the Palestinian Authority - seems to be backing an initiative by a PA minister, reported earlier this week in The Jerusalem Post, to respond to Israel's 60th anniversary by encouraging Palestinians to enact their "right of return" by showing up on Israel's doorstep. On May 14 this year, Palestinians would attempt to "return," suitcases in hand, in order to relocate to places like Jaffa and Haifa, inside Israel.

While obviously more of a propaganda stunt than an effort with direct effect, even gimmicks say something about where Palestinians stand. After all, the Palestinians are presumably divided between Hamas, which openly backs terrorism and Israel's complete destruction, and Fatah, which is presumably committed to a two-state solution and to peace with Israel.

This is the basis of the Annapolis process, of billions of dollars of assistance now flowing to the PA, and countless missions by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Just this month in Ramallah, standing by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice said, "I believe and I've heard you say that the strategic choice of a path of negotiation is the only way for lasting peace, security and prosperity for the people of the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian people, and for the Israelis. The establishment of two states living side by side in peace and freedom, Israel and Palestine, will lead to that outcome."

The basis of the entire process, then, is the principle of two states. For the Palestinians, this means abandoning a century-long struggle to prevent or reverse the establishment of a Jewish state in favor of a different struggle to establish a Palestinian state along side Israel.

The planned stunt, however, indicates that at least some of those in the hierarchy of our supposed PA peace partner do not accept the basic premise of the process. Without mutual recognition by each side of the other's right to a state, what is the point of discussing all the "final status issues" that would define the two states, such as borders and other arrangements between peaceful neighbors?

The claim of a "right of return" is not just another topic for negotiation or splitting the difference, but one that goes to the essence of whether the two-state principle is accepted or rejected. Indeed, though roughly one-fifth of Israel's population is Arab, and all those who have chosen to become citizens can vote and are represented in the Knesset, those in the PA who are backing the "return" gimmick evidently still insist not only that all Jews must leave what will become Palestine, but that Palestinians should be allowed to move to Israel.

This is a classic case of asserting that "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine." After all, either the Palestinians are working to build their own state, or to destroy Israel; they cannot do both at the same time. It is also, though, an attempt to create "Greater Palestine" instead of Israel, superficially similar to the now defunct idea of creating "Greater Israel" by annexing the areas where a Palestinian state would have been created.

Of course, a key difference between the two maximalist, one-state visions is not just that the Israeli version has been abandoned by all but a small fringe. The real difference is that the Israeli version never involved destroying an existing state.

While clothed in the language of human rights and international law, in practice, the "right of return" is simply a dressing up of the genocidal agenda of those who would "wipe Israel off the map." It is an attempt to be Hamas with a human face.

Israel would not have been established if the pre-state Yishuv had not worked for decades to build institutions of effective self-governance. The PA, despite or because of billions of dollars in international assistance, has become a conduit for corruption, patronage and warring "security services." This will not change until the Palestinians decide to truly embrace a two-state model, rather than covering the goal of Greater Palestine with a thin veneer of talk about justice and peace.

The Palestinians and the Arab world have been rejecting two-state offers and plans for the last century. They can continue for another century, or they could decide to truly embrace peace. Here in Israel, peace is our dream, and we are ready to pursue it and to defend ourselves against the alternative.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1205420742013&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull