As disappointing as the response of the West to the Hamas-backed PA government is, Israel bears much of the blame for the situation.
Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit… The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the State of Israel, are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time.
– The Palestinian National Covenant, as posted on the official Palestinian UN website.
Goal: Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence… Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.
– The Fatah Constitution
Israel will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors… The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims… there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…. Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.
– The Hamas charter
In April, Fatah and Hamas reached a reconciliation accord, after a bloody rift of over seven years. This week, subsequent to that agreement, a joint Fatah-Hamas government was established. Almost immediately, the US and the EU announced that they will engage and fund the new government.
These announcements from Washington and Brussels comprise the latest link in the long chain of humiliating, but entirely foreseeable, foreign policy debacles Israel has experienced under the last two Netanyahu governments.
This abysmal sequence began in June 2009, when at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu reneged on electoral pledges and accepted – albeit with evident reticence and reluctance – the admissibility of a Palestinian state. True, he did attempt to hedge his acceptance with unconvincing and unattainable reservations.
But that did little to contain the massive damage his ignominious climbdown caused. In a stroke, the strategic structure of the dispute had been transformed from whether or not there should be a Palestinian state, to what sort of Palestinian state there should be.
Just how manifestly myopic this decision was soon became apparent.
It proved to be a point of singularity in the conflict, for it signaled that the Jews have conceded defeat and, in effect, acceded to the Arab perspective.
All that remained for Israel were vain attempts at rearguard action and desperate damage control. Its position had become untenable – having agreed to something in principle that it could not agree on in practice.
For having conceded, in principle, on the issue of Palestinian statehood, it was left to haggle over the practical details of the process for its implementation.
This set in motion a dynamic in which Israel could not win. For unless it agreed, in practice, to implement what it had agreed to in principle, it inevitably appeared – or was made to appear – obstructionist, being either unreasonable or disingenuous.
No matter how many concessions it made, or how intransigent the other side was, Israel was made to look at fault.
Cavalcade of concessions
Soon Israel found itself forced to make concession after concession, humiliation after humiliation. No position, however firmly stated, was maintained. Israeli capitulation to Arab demands became the accepted – and expected – norm.
None of these, however far-reaching, was ever considered adequate. None of them was perceived as a token of genuine goodwill – only as a sign of weakness and an invitation for more pressure for greater and more far-reaching concessions.
Thus after accepting the possibility of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu was induced to order an unprecedented 10-month building freeze in the Jewish communities across the pre-1967 lines, excluding Jerusalem. This, however, elicited no response from the Palestinian side, other than a petulant demand to renew the freeze, just when it was about to expire.
It also set the scene for a carefully choreographed row between Israel and the Obama administration, over an announcement made during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Israel of a routine bureaucratic approval for an interim planning stage for future construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which, in any case, was not subject to the freeze.
But as before, once the principle is conceded, the details are of little import and the prime minister was subjected to a harrowing 45-minute harangue by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, berating him for “insulting the United States” and sending “a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship.”
Minor and petty humiliations followed – such as Biden deliberately showing up 90 minutes late for dinner at Netanyahu’s home, or the prime minister and his aides being snubbed and abandoned by Barack Obama during a meeting in the White House.
So instead of being commended for going so sharply against his political base, Netanyahu was condemned and demeaned.
But more was to follow. At Obama’s bidding during his 2013 visit to Israel, Netanyahu made an abject apology to vehemently anti-Israel Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Mavi Marmara incident – even offering compensation for Israeli naval commandos’ use of lethal force to defend themselves against a frenzied lynch mob, trying to violate a legitimate maritime quarantine of the Judeocidal terrorist regime in Gaza.
The only tangible consequence of this dishonorable gesture has been arrest warrants for senior Israeli officers issued by a Turkish court.
Then came the Kerry initiative, and once again a Netanyahu-led government bowed to pressure, making concessions most of its ministers built their political careers opposing.
Astonishingly, a government stacked with alleged territorial hawks not only agreed to enter into negotiations on Palestinian statehood, whose agreed (albeit tacit) point of departure was the indefensible 1967 “Auschwitz borders,” it capitulated even further.
To cajole the Palestinians into deigning to participate in talks – which one would have thought they had a greater interest in conducting than Israel did – Israel agreed to the release of scores of convicted terrorists, guilty of the most heinous acts of brutality.
The futility of flexibility
Yet despite all this far-reaching “flexibility,” not a single conciliatory gesture from the Palestinians was forthcoming. Obdurately, they clung to their most radical and uncompromising positions. True to the principles laid out in the founding documents of their major constituent organizations (see introductory excerpts) they even refused to acknowledge that the Jews have any right to self-determination or political sovereignty – “regardless of the passage of time.”
So, as anyone with half a brain could have predicted with ease, the ill-conceived Kerry initiative reached an impasse – and subsequently collapsed.
Having wrung all feasible concessions from Israel, the allegedly moderate Fatah (whose constitution commits it to the destruction of the Jewish state in the name of the“Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution”) joined in a unity agreement with the supposedly more extreme Hamas (whose national charter commits it to the destruction of the Jewish state in the name of Islam).
Yet despite all this manifest Israeli willingness to compromise and concede, and the equally manifest Palestinian intransigence, Israel is being portrayed as responsible for the failure of the ill-fated endeavor.
Thus, in a recent interview conducted with Netanyahu, Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, considered by some as Obama’s court scribe, once again displayed his extraordinary penchant for bias and cavalier disregard for facts.
With breathtaking gall, he writes in the preamble to his interview: Right now, the burden is on Netanyahu to prove that he is interested in compromise”
Forked tongues at Foggy Bottom?
Initially, the US reaction toward the Fatah- Hamas pact seemed uncharacteristically sensible.
Thus, in April, US State Department’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced that “Washington was disappointed by the announcement,” and warned it could seriously complicate peace efforts. She added what should be a self-evident truth: “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”
But this rare lapse into common sense was, as expected, short-lived. The PC (Palestinian- compliant) gobbledygook soon reasserted itself – for, clearly, to acknowledge stark political truth, as opposed to seductive political correctness, entailed a cost too onerous to contemplate: admission that the two-state solution was no longer a feasible option.
Accordingly, following the formation of the Fatah-Hamas government, Psaki’s tune changed dramatically: “We will be judging this government by its actions. Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government…,” which seems to strongly suggest that, suddenly, it really wasn’t all that “hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”
Similar sentiments were conveyed by the EU’s top envoy to the US, Joao Vale de Almeida, who declared that Europe was prepared to work with a government backed by Hamas: “We never said we would not. It’s a question of substance rather than the question of composition of the government.”
This of course leaves us to puzzle over what possible basis there is for any hope that a Palestinian government, backed by Hamas, will be capable of behaving in any way more conducive of an agreement with Israel than one that is not backed by it.
Wages of indolence, impotence incompetence
But it also underlines the fact that, in the eyes of its purported allies, there is no concession that Israel can make that would be considered generous enough; no principle crucial enough to justify Israel adhering to it. Conversely, it seems there is nothing that the Palestinians can do, say or write that is egregious or abhorrent enough for politicians and bureaucrats in Washington or Brussels to disqualify them as appropriate interlocutors for peace.
So in effect by accepting the admissibility of Palestinian statehood, Israel has fostered a situation in which it will be only a matter of time until Hamas is “sanitized” as a worthy participant in negotiations on the future of the Jewish state, to whose destruction it is committed.
But, as disappointed as Israel may be with the response of the West, it must bear much of the blame for the circumstances it finds itself in. Through its indolence, impotence and incompetence it has allowed the Palestinian narrative to dominate the discourse.
It has been appallingly remiss in mobilizing the resolve, resources and resourcefulness needed to discredit the authenticity of demonstrably (indeed, openly admitted) false Palestinian claims for nationhood, peoplehood and statehood. It has been derelict in not devising mechanisms to mobilize the massive pools of latent public support for Israel around the world and in allowing Palestinian fabrications to mold public perceptions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Ignoring political ‘logic’
Clearly, within the context of conventional wisdom, the contention that Israel’s acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims laid the foundations for its current predicament seems counter-intuitive, to many observers.
However, the logic is unassailable and the conclusion to which it leads inexorable: Once the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is conceded, the delegitimization of Israel is inevitable. The chain of reasoning is clear and compelling – almost algorithmic:
• If the Palestinian narrative which portrays the Palestinians as an authentic national entity is acknowledged as legitimate, then all the aspirations, such as achieving Palestinian statehood, arising from that narrative are legitimate.
• However – in the absence of wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsibly unrealistic, best-case assumptions – any policy that is designed to secure Israel’s minimal security requirements will preclude the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
• Consequently, any endeavor to realistically provide Israel with minimal security will be perceived as illegitimate. By accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security.
• The inevitable conclusion must, therefore, be that for Israel to secure conditions that adequately address its minimal security requirements, the Palestinian narrative, and the aspirations that flow from it, must be disqualified.
Until there is a government that can internalize this necessary, albeit unpalatable truth, and formulate policy that reflects it exigencies, the Zionist endeavor and the survival of the Jewish nation-state will be increasingly menaced.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.