Bryan Griffin: Palestinian Leadership Isn’t Serious About Peace | WAMC

Bryan Griffin: Palestinian Leadership Isn’t Serious About Peace

Feb 5, 2020

The Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposed by the Trump Administration last week is a serious offer at a mutually beneficial solution to a long-time conflict. However, the Palestinians aren’t serious.

Palestinian leadership has forever decried an inability to find peace with their Israeli neighbors, yet they don’t even show up to the negotiating table. The plan was rejected out of pocket by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before it was ever fully formed, and he refused to take any phone calls from Trump trying to engage him in the process.

My heart breaks for the Palestinian people because they are represented by radically influenced leaders who have no real interest in peace.

Trump’s plan, which Israel has accepted, makes several concessions to the Palestinians that have historically been quoted as major sticking points in reaching an agreement by the Palestinians themselves.

First, the plan intentionally addresses the Palestinian issue of movement. The plan offers a tunnel connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip, now two separated Palestinian territories, to allow the unfettered movement of Palestinian citizens. It also specifically highlights ports accessible to the Palestinians in the north and south of Israel off the Mediterranean coast and ensures the free crossing of Palestinians into Jordan and Egypt.

Second, the plan makes concessions for Israeli settlement territory. Far before Israel or the Palestinian territories existed, Jews and Arabs were living throughout the region. When the new borders shaped up after the war of Independence in 1948, about 700,000 Jewish refugees were pushed into Israel from the Jordan-controlled West Bank, and about 700,000 Arab refugees were pushed out of Israel into the West Bank and other neighboring Arab countries. Of those remaining, Arabs living in Israel were granted citizenship. In fact, a full 20% of Israel’s population is Arab at present. The Palestinians, however, never accepted such a Jewish minority living among them. The Jewish residents of cities now over the borders of the West Bank are labeled settlers and have been a sticking point to the Palestinians ever since. In an effort of compromise, this peace plan carves out a comparable amount of Israeli territory near Gaza for the Palestinians in exchange for the footprint of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But are the settlements really the obstacle to peace?

In 2005, Israel wondered if they were indeed an obstacle to peace, and in an experiment to determine the answer to this question Israel physically uprooted every Jewish settlement and physically removed every Jew living in Gaza bringing them into Israeli borders. They then completely withdrew from the Gaza strip and handed it over to the Palestinians. Since then, the terrorist organization Hamas has ruled Gaza as the “elected government” and has perpetrated violence on its people and surrounding Israeli communities regularly.

Third, the plan has a specific and sophisticated timetable detailed within it that transitions the West Bank into full Palestinian control, thus granting the Palestinians complete sovereignty over their territory and future country, so long as the Palestinians cooperate with the Israeli government in the process and ensure the security needs of Israel are met in the transition.

Additionally, the plan also commits to over $50 billion in investment in Palestinian society. A free and open market would allow Palestinian society to thrive.

The plan offers movement, territory, and sovereignty. All three items the Palestinians say they want yet refuse to accept when offered.

It’s not the first time the Palestinians have refused compromises from Israel. They also refused Israeli peace offers and land compromises in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008. Often, these offers consisted of upwards of 95% of the land the Palestinians asked for, yet they never accepted or even counteroffered. No peace plan has ever originated from the Palestinian leadership. Sadly, the reality is grim. Palestinian leadership knows it can never make peace with Israel because international peacemaking requires compromise. There is no room for compromise among the radical elements of Palestinian society who don’t want any Jewish neighbors. Instead the Palestinian leadership has found success maintaining the status quo of an oppressed society with no real path to sovereignty. It’s a vicious circle that only hurts the Palestinian people who I believe largely want to accept peace offers like the one recently proposed.

You may hear that Jerusalem is the reason that the Palestinians can’t accept the offer. Though Israel and the international community have historically tried every combination of slicing up the city to allow for both an Israeli and Palestinian capital to coexist, it has never been enough. Palestinian leadership will never even consider a shared capital.

In a completely unprecedented reaction to Trump’s peace plan, Arab neighbors are finally getting on board with an Israeli-Palestinian compromise. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have all backed the plan, which is truly a first. Yet it is not and possibly never will be enough for Palestinian leadership. They can’t compromise, because they don’t want compromise. Palestinian leaders are beholden to the radical all-or-nothing elements of their society and have found money and power in maintaining the status quo. The world, Israel, and the Palestinian people yearn for peace in this unending conflict, yet they have no serious partners with whom to negotiate.

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.

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