While peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have resumed for the first time in three years, the atmosphere is edgy, as mistrust and skepticism remain high. The decades old conflict between two people over a tiny piece of land in the Middle East has virtually the entire world fixated. Indeed, it seems countless millions have become obsessed with seeing a solution realized.
Most tend to favor a two-state solution. Yet, have the proponents of this forgotten a two-state solution is something which was tried some 65 years ago? Have they also forgotten it was not Israel who rejected two states for two peoples, it was the Arabs?
For those who believe the two-state solution is the answer, one only needs to look at who has more to risk with such an outcome.
The Palestinian Arabs seek an independent state on 100% of Judea/Samaria (aka: West Bank). They also seek control of eastern Jerusalem, and demand the return of 5-6 million refugees who were displaced after the Independence War of '48. If Israel was to accede to these demands would this resolve the conflict and bring peace? It would if your desire is to see Israel lose control of its holiest city and allow its Jewish population to become a minority. The result would be the elimination of the world's only Jewish majority country and place Jews under subjugation of a Muslim majority, as they were for centuries in numerous Arab countries prior to the rebirth of modern Israel.
Israel has countered the Palestinian demands by offering to give up well over 90% of Judea/Samaria, but is not willing to give up the holy City of Jerusalem, nor is there a willingness to see the Jewish majority disappear in the homeland.
Compromise and sacrifice
Keep in mind two previous PMs - Barak and Olmert - made even more generous offers which included dividing Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected each of them. That’s a telling indication of their refusal to compromise.
Another bone of contention is Israel's construction in areas the Palestinians demand for their state. Israel has been criticized for building in these areas. However is said construction actually something which justifies undoing a peace agreement?
Such agreements arise from negotiations, which by their very nature require compromise. If the Palestinians are serious about a peace accord, construction issues can be worked out at the negotiation table.
My question is: Where have the Palestinians indicated a willingness to compromise? They refuse to accept less than 100% of Judea/Samaria. Nor will they accept anyplace other than Jerusalem as the capital of their presumed state. Plus, they refuse to back away from demanding all 5-6 million refugees be allowed to return to Israel.
Thus the real question becomes: Is their goal peace, or is it to gain their own state at the expense of the Israel's existence?
Israel, on the other hand has shown a willingness to compromise by accepting the existence of a Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria, which is considered holy to many Jews. Israel wants to keep a very small percentage of the land where communities have been made contiguous with existing cities. This involves roughly 3-5% of the land demanded by the Palestinians. Could the Palestinians agree to this and still have their own state? Absolutely, yet they refuse to compromise. They have also said their state must be 100% Jew free. This means approximately 400,000 Jews would have to be relocated, while Israel's 1.6 million Arab citizens remain intact. When all the give comes from Israel, are the Palestinian’s acting in good faith? The answer is obvious.
At the end of the day, what's the solution?
No solution is possible without compromise and sacrifice. If Israel is willing to give up the majority of its heartland to people who have charters calling for its destruction, that's a sacrifice as well as a risk on Israel's part which the Palestinians should recognize. It places an enemy committed to Israel’s destruction right next to its population centers. It also allows the Palestinians statehood which they currently do not have.
Keep in mind Israel lost over 85% of land which was promised to it in the original British Mandate for Palestine. Why shouldn't the Palestinians be willing to give up a mere 3-5% of the land they expect? Such is the nature of negotiations. If they refuse and continue to demand Jerusalem as their capital, when they already have two Muslim holy cities - Mecca and Medina - and they also require the right of return, how can anyone say their true goal is peace with Israel?
Successful negotiations in my opinion are when neither side gets what it wants, but both get what they need. To date the Palestinians have refused to settle for anything less than what they want. Isn't it time the world stand up to their uncompromising demands and tell them needs surpass wants? Actually that time is long overdue.
Dan Calic is a writer, history student and speaker. See additional articles on his Facebook page