The 36 Year War
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The 36 Year War

The 36 Year War

In order for the road map to succeed, President Bush must first insist that the Palestinians abandon their hope of overwhelming Israel by demographic or other means.

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Few people in June 1967 would have imagined that, 36 years later, controversy would still engulf the territories won by Israel in the Six-Day War. Numerous peace plans have sought to resolve the status of the West Bank and Gaza, but without success. Now, on the anniversary of that war, George W. Bush is trying again.

In Aqaba last week, the president urged the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers to put aside "humiliation, killing and mourning," and to follow his "road map" to peace. Mr. Bush has placed his prestige behind the initiative, though presidents have done so previously and failed. Ultimately, his success will depend not only on his commitment to the process, but on his determination to face the core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. These are the issues that triggered the 1967 war, and which have pitted Palestinians against Israelis ever since.

* * *

Over the years, Israeli's attitude toward Palestinians has transformed radically. Less than a decade after Labor Prime Minister Golda Meir declared "there is no Palestine," hard-liner Menachem Begin signed the 1979 Camp David Accords recognizing the Palestinians' right to political autonomy. Then, in the Oslo Agreements of 1993, Yitzhak Rabin acknowledged the existence of a Palestinian people and its just demand for self-determination -- a commitment upheld by Rabin's Likud successor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis were also busy settling the territories during this period, but in 2000, Ehud Barak offered to uproot or concentrate the settlements, even to redivide Jerusalem, to accommodate Palestinian sovereignty. Finally, at Aqaba, Ariel Sharon, the former architect of the settlement movement, vowed to help create a territorially-contiguous Palestinian state to "live side-by-side with Israel in peace and security."

In practice Arafat never abandoned the goal of annihilating the Jewish state.

Yet would the establishment of that state guarantee a secure peace? Palestinian thinking on Israel also evolved after 1967. A year after the war, the Palestine Liberation Organization adopted its National Charter that denied the existence of a Jewish people and envisioned Israel's destruction through armed struggle. By 1974, however, the PLO enacted the "Phases Plan" calling for the creation of a state on any part of Palestine by any means, including diplomacy, as the first step toward regaining the entire country.

While PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat later accepted U.N. Resolution 242 and, at Oslo, affirmed Israel's existence, in practice he never abandoned the goal of annihilating the Jewish state. To Arabic-speaking audiences, he justified Oslo as a first stage in the Phases Plan. The Palestinian media and educational system, meanwhile, rejected the idea of Israel even in its pre-1967 borders, and glorified acts of "martyrdom" against it. By insisting on returning millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, Arafat aimed at turning it into Palestine in all but name.

The changes in Palestinian policies regarding Israel were merely tactical.

Unlike the fundamental shifts in Israeli attitudes on the Palestinian issue, the changes in Palestinian policies regarding Israel were merely tactical. The Israeli government today accepts the fact that a Palestinian people exists, that it has suffered in the past and should now have a state. By contrast, the Palestinian leadership still refuses to recognize a permanent and legitimate Jewish state. In his Aqaba speech, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas indeed cited the "suffering of the Jews throughout history," renounced terrorism and a "military solution for the conflict," but objected strongly to any mention of a Jewish people with historic ties to its homeland. The prime minister, however, represents only about 3% of the Palestinian public, and his pledges were instantly repudiated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and even Mr. Abbas's own al-Fatah faction, all of which claimed responsibility for the murder of six Israelis since the summit. Incitement in the Palestinian press and schools continues, meanwhile, undiminished.

In order for the road map to succeed, President Bush must confront the profound asymmetry between the Palestinian and Israel concepts of peace. While he may press Mr. Sharon to fulfill his promised "painful concessions" for peace, and assure the Palestinians of statehood, the president must first insist that the Palestinians abandon their hope of overwhelming Israel by demographic or other means. The alternative is a Palestinian state that will not co-exist peacefully with Israel, but will persistently strive to supplant it.

* * *

The Six-Day war resulted from many factors, including disputes over borders and waterways. But the most basic factor was the Arabs' refusal to accept a Jewish state, and their readiness to wage war to destroy it. Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were achieved precisely by addressing the root cause of Arab rejection. While Palestinian tactics have become more flexible, Palestinian goals remain unaltered since 1967. If President Bush succeeds in changing those goals, the road map may indeed lead to the mutual recognition, renunciation of force and foreswearing of all future claims, which form the only basis for durable peace. Failure to do so, however, will only create conditions for yet another Middle East War.

Published: June 14, 2003


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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, June 19, 2003 12:00 AM

article contrary to torah

I do cannot understand how an Orthodox Jewish site can allow such an article to be published. Does not the Torah say in Devarim that the natives will always terrorize us. There can never be peace if these local arabs live there. It is only false hopes.

(2) Oren, June 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Legitimacy of the "Palestinians"

It is interesting that Israel recognises the "Palestinian's" rights for autonomy when a careful reading of history proves that this "nation" is actually a hodgepog of Arab immigrants from surrounding countries who arrived when the Jewish influx to Israel brought with it employment. Also not mentioned is that Palestine was already arbitrarily divided into an Arab half (70% of the landmass - now Jordan) and a Jewish half. Now the proposal is to split it again when the whole thing was originally promised to the Jews.
Interesting!!

(1) Yisroel Friedman, June 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Trust Palestinians?

And if the Palestinians PROMISED all you mention, can they be trusted to keep their word? Arafat has broken over 200 treaties. He is a rabid anti-semite and his agenda is to drive the Jews into the sea. A Palistinian state is just the first step on the Roadmap to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.
There is no historical basis for a Palestinian state in Israel. Most so called "Palestinians" live in Jordan where they really belong. Israel was given to the Jews by G-d as prescribed in the Torah. If they want to live under Israeli rule in peace (their quality of life would be better in Israel than any other Arab country or a Palestinian state)then there is no reason to expel them, but they do not. We have no right to give up any of Israel to anyone. Any negotiation or concesions will only lead to more terror and Jewish deaths. May Hashem open up our eyes to internalize these truths.

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