The picture is not pretty with regard to the “proximity talks,” and there is cause only for pessimism. We must ask ourselves how we got into this situation — which evolved over decades, with various Israeli governments having made some disastrous mistakes — and how we find our way out.
The first mistake was in 1967, when we acquired control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza and did not annex these areas (although ultimately we placed eastern Jerusalem and the Golan under civil law). The Arabs in Judea and Samaria expected to be sent packing. After all, that is what Jordan did to us in 1949, when they made the areas they acquired Judenrein. But, no, big sports that we were, we said, stay...
Then jump to 1993, when we made the next disastrous mistake in signing on to Oslo, which committed us to negotiating a final status for the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Actually this was one long series of disastrous mistakes, melded together.
What we did was to concede, in theory, some notion of the right of the Palestinian Arabs to live on part of our land - or to claim part as theirs. We had embraced the "land for peace" concept, which turned out to be a farce.
Incredibly - because they were thought to be the ones who had ultimate influence and could wage peace - the terrorists of the PLO were brought by the Rabin government from Tunis to Jericho and Gaza, and ultimately Ramallah. But “peace” was not their agenda.
As interaction via Oslo progressed, we cut the Arabs slack repeatedly: not actually holding them to their commit¬ments, but sailing along as if they had honored them. The issue of incitement, which is front page news these days, serves as example. Arafat instituted incitement big-time: he was out to teach his people that Israel wasn’t legitimate, and that we Jews were the lowest of the low, so that killing us was praise¬worthy. Yet Oslo called for cessation of all incitement. Did we stop our cooperation with Arafat because he failed to honor this stipulation? Don't be silly. It's as if we just had to keep going, no matter what.
Worst of all since 1993 is that we have had governments that adopted the Palestinian Arab narrative in some measure: the story of a suffering people with a long history in this land, displaced by the Jews, oppressed by the occupation, and longing for a state of their own. Put another way, we have had at least some leaders who literally forgot who they were, and advocated against our own best interest for our enemy. We were such kind people, so sensitive to our adversaries, so willing to make sacrifices.
I call this Diaspora mental¬ity. Having been at the mercy of others for 2,000 years, we remain inordinately eager to please.
There is frequent talk these days of different “narratives,” the implication being that it is simply a matter of perspective: they have their version of history and we have ours. Yet sometimes it is not a question of one narrative versus another, but rather a matter of invention versus fact. You could say that we failed to tell our narrative - but what we did, with bleeding hearts, is fail to expose the facts that put the lie to the Arab “narrative.”
Arab PR masters
The Arabs spoke about the '67 "border" and there was no clear and immediate Israeli government retort - repeated as often as necessary - that the '67 line was an armistice line and not meant to be permanent. By default, if nothing else, we left the impression that behind the ‘67 line was where we most properly "belonged." The flip side of this was that everything on the other side of that line was "Palestinian."
When the Arabs spoke about "Arab east Jerusalem," we did not forcefully clarify the fact that part of Jerusalem had a predominantly Arab population only because Jordan had thrown out every Jew, and that this very area was actually the heart of Jewish heritage. We didn't tell our history and make our claim clear.
The Arabs have represented UNRWA as being a humanitarian agency that helps the disenfranchised "Palestinian refugees" survive until they can "return" to Israel. Did we ever energetically expose the fact that UNRWA's rules are different from the rules for all other refugees in the world, who are managed by UNHCR? Don't be silly.
Regularly do I find people shocked by the differences in the rules, yet this is something that every politically aware person in the West ought to be aware of. Very few realize that a "Palestinian refugee" who has acquired US citizenship is still considered a "refugee" on the UNRWA books because he didn't “return” to Israel, whence his grandfather had come in 1948.
Perhaps most significant of all is the fact that the PLO has never officially renounced its call to destroy Israel, and Fatah still embraces the concept of "armed resistance." Coupled with this is the fact that when the Arabs speak about "occupation," they are referring to everything from the River to the Sea. According to this conceptualization, there is no place here where Jews belong. Yet our governments, in accepting the “two-state solution,” pretended that this is not the case.
The Arabs have been masters at promoting their vision in terms palatable to the West. And so, unsurprisingly, leaders of the international community have bought it hook, line and sinker. Why shouldn't they have? They were more than eager in any event, and they weren't presented with a dynamic and cogent alternative version of the situation. They saw that even some Israeli leaders were on board.
How many people know that the San Remo (properly: Sanremo) Conference and the Mandate for Palestine are enshrined in international law to this day and give us the right to this land? How many have even heard of San Remo and the Mandate? Who knows that Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 does not speak either of a Palestinian people or a Palestinian state - while it does speak about Israel's right to secure borders?
The overriding international concern is for "justice" for the poor beleaguered Palestinian people. The very same people, it should be noted, who, per capita, receive more financial assistance than any other.
For a long time, a good part of the Israeli people - longing for peace and acceptance by neighbors - bought into the constructs of Oslo. That has changed significantly. The people have been disabused of this notion as they have seen what concessions have brought us, and how we have suffered the onslaught of rockets from Gaza since we pulled out.
So now people are demanding that we stop the train we've been on, before it brings us to disaster. This is great. There is a difference in tone that is enormously important.
But others are saying that we must, quickly, reverse that train and bring it back to its starting gate. This, however, will not happen over night. It depends on our first strengthening ourselves as a people.
It's time for us to take tough stances in a number of different ways. There should be no concessions to the Palestinian Arabs and, most of all, no relinquishing of our land. Facts must be exposed forcefully, leading to a shift in interna¬tional perceptions, however grudging.
Unfortunately, we haven't fought our wars to win, but have withdrawn prematurely for political reasons. We shouldn't have stopped in Lebanon when we did, and we should have pursued greater achievement in Gaza last year. This needs to change. We should bomb Iran, because no one else will do it, and it must be done.
However, we should not delude ourselves that we can simply stand against the world with impunity. Anti-Semitism is rampant and much of the world would gladly do us in without thinking twice, should they find the rationale.
I astound myself as I say this (because it is so counter-intuitive and so inherently obscene), but I believe the international community would level crippling sanctions against us more quickly than they have been willing to do against Iran. The world would attempt to bring us to our knees were we to attempt now to annex all the land that is properly ours. Depriving the Palestinians of their "legitimate" rights? Acting like an "apartheid" nation? They'd come after us big time.
And so what matters at least as much as how we respond to the outside world is the process of developing our own resilience, and solidifying our belief in the rightness of our stance. Step by step, until we know how to stand tall as a nation - strong in our sense of inheritance, and in our determination to hold fast to our entitlements.
Arlene Kushner is a Jerusalem author and journalist, and serves as senior analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research. Her frequent list postings can be found at: www.arlenefromisrael.info