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   Responses to Common Inaccuracies About Israel
Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process   

Israel is not interested in or prepared to make meaningful compromises to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Hamas must be part of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israel’s refusal to deal with Hamas doesn’t make sense. After all, Israel eventually negotiated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization after decades of enduring its terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews.

The Palestinians had no choice but to reject the Israeli proposals at Camp David.

The concept of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unfeasible and outdated. Instead, there should be one state, a “bi-national” state that would be created out of Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would protect the Jewish/Israeli and Palestinian identity and interests of its citizens.

Israel is fully committed to pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians so that it may finally live in peace and security. Peace has proven difficult because there has not been a Palestinian peace partner willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist and able to uphold peace commitments. Israel was able to reach historic peace agreements with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) in which both sides made serious compromises for the sake of normalized relations. In 2005, in the absence of a serious Palestinian negotiating partner but still interested in taking steps for improving conditions on the ground, the Israeli government unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, proving its willingness to make painful sacrifices even at a time when mutual cooperation was not an option.

Public opinion polls in Israel since the start of the Oslo process in 1993 consistently show that the vast majority of Israelis are supportive of negotiations with the Palestinians and are willing to make extremely difficult compromises on borders, settlements, Jerusalem and other contentious issues. This support has been relatively constant despite Palestinian terrorism, the rise of Hamas, and widespread skepticism of the Palestinian commitment to negotiations leading to an end of the conflict and a resolution of all claims. Recognizing this great support for peace, every candidate for Prime Minister of Israel since 1993 has pledged to continue the pursuit of peace – albeit with different approaches.

Hamas is committed to the elimination of Israel’s existence by whatever means necessary. This commitment is articulated in the Hamas Covenant, and is regularly reiterated by its leadership. No country, including Israel, should be expected to negotiate with an entity that seeks its destruction and uses terrorism and rocket attacks to further that goal.

Israel and the international community have been clear, Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce the use of violence and terrorism, and accept previously negotiated Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Until it meets these requirements, neither Israel nor the international community will engage with Hamas.

Israel does deal with the the Palestinian Authority and its leaders who were former PLO officials. However, this only came about once the PLO met similar requirements. In 1993, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing terrorism, and pledging to remove clauses in the Palestine National Charter that called for the destruction of the state of Israel. The PLO/Palestinian Authority and Israel’s other Arab peace partners – including Egypt and Jordan – have done what Hamas adamantly refuses to do: accept the reality of Israel’s existence and reject efforts to eradicate Israel.

Hamas is well aware of the steps it must take if it is interested in negotiating with Israel.

At the Camp David Summit in July 2000, Palestinians had the opportunity to negotiate a final peace agreement with Israel that would have provided them with a Palestinian state in the entire Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a final status agreement with concessions that went far beyond what most Israelis ever expected. Nonetheless, in response, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat refused the Barak proposal, made no counteroffer and failed to demonstrate any flexibility or willingness to compromise on the contentious issues under negotiation. After rejecting the Israeli offer – which included extensive concessions on sharing Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, establishing an independent Palestinian state in 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and as much as 95 percent of the West Bank, uprooting isolated settlements – the Palestinians walked away from negotiations.

After the Summit, President Clinton openly acknowledged Israel’s tremendous concessions and stated that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak “showed particular courage and vision and an understanding of the historical importance of the moment.” On his return to Israel, Prime Minister Barak declared: “Today I return from Camp David, and can look into the millions of eyes and say with regret: We have not yet succeeded. We did not succeed because we did not find a partner prepared to make decisions on all issues. We did not succeed because our Palestinian neighbors have not yet internalized the fact that in order to achieve peace, each side has to give up some of their dreams; to give, not only to demand.”

In the aftermath of Camp David, Palestinians publicly excused their behavior by declaring that the failure of Camp David was due to lack of preparation by the Americans, personality differences between Barak and Arafat, and by Barak’s “take-it-or-leave-it” negotiating posture. These excuses cannot explain or justify the Palestinian refusal to discuss the Barak proposal or to present a counteroffer. The issues under discussion were no secret – final status negotiations had been anticipated for the seven years since the 1993 Oslo Agreement. Instead, Camp David demonstrated that Arafat and the Palestinian leadership were not seriously interested in negotiating peace with Israel. Ehud Barak said that at Camp David, Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian leadership were “unmasked.”

The proposal of a bi-national state is nothing less than an indirect attempt to bring about an end to the State of Israel as a national homeland of the Jewish people.

The State of Israel was established as a Jewish state out of the nationalist aspiration of the Jewish people and an international recognition of the rights of Jews to a homeland following millennia of persecution. It is unrealistic and unacceptable to expect Israel to voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and nationalist identity. Israel is a self-declared Jewish state, with founding principles that guarantee the equal treatment of protection of all its citizens – regardless of religion, ethnicity or color.

Bi-nationalism requires Israel to forsake its Jewish nationalism and identity, along with its status as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution. Furthermore, bi-nationalism is unworkable given current realities and historic animosities. With the high birth rate among the Palestinians, Jews would very soon be a minority within a bi-national state, thus likely ending any semblance of equal representation and protections. Additionally, given the degree of hostility to Jews by many Palestinians, what is euphemistically called “bi-nationalism” would mean risk of persecution and oppression for those Jews allowed to remain on the territory of their former state. Finally, as Israeli journalist Yossi Klein-Halevi has argued, “the notion that Palestinians and Jews, who can’t even negotiate a two-state solution, could coexist in one happy state is so ludicrous that only the naive or the malicious would fall for it.”

Within certain intellectual circles the call for a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state has gained traction. While couching their arguments in terms of egalitarianism and justice, proponents of a bi-national state are predominantly harsh critics of Israel, and use this proposal as a vehicle to question the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

Any just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be based on two states, living side by side in peace and security.

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