Palestinians’ violent past
It seems that although the Israeli government and moderate Palestinians agree on the need to restart the peace process with a view to reaching a permanent resolution, there is serious disagreement on what the real obstacle to peace is. Many in Europe and in the United States view the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as the single greatest obstacle to peace. But historical perspective as well as the recent past show otherwise.
Arab violence toward Jews in the Holy Land began decades before the state of Israel was established. It had nothing to do with ”occupation” or with ”settlements,” and everything to do with preventing Jews from establishing their own state on their historical land.
After the 1948 War of Independence, Jordan occupied the West Bank, and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip for almost 20 years. Eastern Jerusalem was in Arab hands, ruled by the King of Jordan. And yet the Palestinians never rose against these Arab states, never demanded independence, never demanded to establish a capital in Jerusalem.
Acts of terror
In the 1950s and 1960s, Arab Fedayeen terrorists launched dozens of attacks against Israeli civilians. This was not a protest movement, nor was it a fight to ”liberate” any land. There were no settlements and no occupation. The terrorists simply wanted to kick the Jews out of the Middle East, refusing to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist. They used terrorism in an attempt to change that reality.
In 1964, three years before any Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Palestinians established the PLO, which began carrying out indiscriminate terror attacks against Israeli civilians. There was no occupation, no Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, no settlements. East Jerusalem was Arab. And yet, instead of building a peaceful state of their own alongside Israel, Arafat and his band of terrorists wanted to eliminate the Jewish state, which only occupied half of the land allotted to our two states by the United Nations.
Jordan, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world could have given the Palestinians their own homeland on the same land they demand today, not one inch less. They could have handed them Jerusalem as their capital on a silver platter.
Recent experience shows that whenever Israel made concessions to the Palestinians, those concessions were rewarded not with reciprocal concessions, but rather with more violence, terrorism and intransigence. After Israel pulled out of Lebanon, the Hezbollah terrorist organization continued launching missiles against us. Not a single Israeli soldier is on Lebanese soil, yet Hezbollah claims to be a ”resistance” movement. Resistance against what? Against Israel’s very existence.
In 2005, Israel pulled out all its soldiers from the Gaza Strip and dismantled settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinian response came in the form of 8,000 rockets launched against Israeli towns and villages. There is no occupation in Gaza. No settlements in Gaza. No soldiers in Gaza.
We’ll honor pact
The settlements never have been and never will be an obstacle to peace. If and when we negotiate a territorial agreement with the Palestinians, we may well dismantle more settlements. We will fulfill our side of any agreement. But history shows that dismantling settlements and making territorial concessions only make the Palestinians hungrier for blood. For us, uprooting families from their homes is a painful concession that we have made again and again. It has brought us more violence and more death. For the Palestinians, these concessions are a sign of weakness, causing them to launch even more terror attacks.
The real obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Arab world to truly accept the existence of a Jewish state on our historic land. Although it occupies one-thousandth of the combined size of Muslim states, Israel’s existence in the Middle East is, to most Arabs, unacceptable and should be fought to the last drop of (Israeli) blood. They fight not for land, but for our destruction and elimination. Pressuring Israel to dismantle the settlements is dangerous because it will not bring peace to the Middle East. It will bring more violence, more terrorism and more Israeli deaths. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson years ago.
Ofer Bavly is consul general of Israel to Florida.