Moving the Palestinian Leadership from Rejectionism to Recognition

5011 - Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF)

On Jan. 14, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said something hardly unprecedented for him, but for some reason managed to break through the longstanding wall of international ignorance and obeisance to his typical angry declarations.

Abbas’ address to the PLO Central Council ostensibly was to introduce the question of whether the Palestinian Liberation Organization should denounce the Oslo Accords, the treaty that governs relations between Israel and the Palestinians and created the Palestinian Authority, of which he is president.

However, what was meant to be a political argument became a long-winded claim against the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, Zionism. Invoking everyone from Oliver Cromwell to Napoleon Bonaparte, Abbas’ diatribe usefully shone a light on the real crux of why the conflict still rages after more than 100 years.

Not once did Abbas mention the issues of land, borders, the settlements or the occupation. These are the issues that many in the West assume occupies the Palestinian leadership and are the prime motivators for the decades-long verbal and physical onslaught. However, it is clear that these issues were of little concern to Abbas. His sole target was Zionism, which he called “a colonialist enterprise.”

In other words, Abbas, like Palestinian leaders before him, does not consider the lack of a Palestinian state to be the problem, but the reality and existence of a Jewish and democratic state.

5012 - Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF)
Mahmoud Abbas, pointing fingers at everyone but himself at the PLO Central Council meeting on January 14.

This is not a shock for those paying close attention to the conflict, but it appears to be a blind spot for many who have spent significant resources, energies and political capital attempting to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the Middle East Forum, these words spoken by Abbas make our case that much easier. For some time now, Daniel Pipes has been stating that this conflict will end only with the end to the over-100 years of Palestinian rejectionism of the idea of the return and reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish people’s indigenous and ancestral homeland.

This is what has fed Palestinian rejectionism since the early part of the last century and has informed their consistent repudiation of the creation of a state of their own if it means sharing part of the land with a Jewish sovereign presence, even when that state would be only a tiny sliver of land as recommended by the Peel Commission in 1937.

As can be seen in thousands of years of history, wars end not when one side declares victory, but when one side accepts that it no longer can reach the aims it set out for itself at the outset of the conflict.

The Palestinians laid out for themselves a clear path to victory, which was, up until 1948, the prevention, and is now the elimination, of sovereignty for the Jewish people. Abbas’ latest comments in 2018, are merely the latest barbs in this ongoing battle.

Thus, the conflict will end only when a Palestinian leader has accepted the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and ends the physical, diplomatic, economic and political war against it.

The Oslo Accords and every negotiation towards peace have failed because they did not accept this central issue. While the issues of land, borders and sovereignty for the Palestinian people were never sticking points in any of the failed talks, Palestinian leaders obstinately refused basic issues such as recognition of Israel and clauses such as “end of claims” and “end of conflict.”

Palestinian leaders seek to pocket Israeli concessions while keeping their claims open, making Israel a target for future wars.

This was true in 2000 with the “Clinton Parameters” and the 2007 Annapolis talks. They both broke down because a Palestinian leader refused to end the conflict, regardless of the offer and terms for peace that were on the table in front of them.

In other words, the conflict will not end with the creation of a Palestinian state, for the first time in history, or a removal of settlements and the presence of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. The Palestinians wish to pocket all of this and keep the conflict and their claims open, making all of Israel a target for their future maximalist endeavors.

The focus of all Western efforts should be on ending Palestinian rejection of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.

It is vital that the United States and the international community use this unprecedented opportunity to end the conflict. By clearly understanding Abbas’ words and those that came before them, it should be painstakingly clear that the focus of all efforts and pressure should be on ending Palestinian rejection of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

When the Palestinian leadership finally moves from rejectionism to recognition, the conflict will finally be ripe for its conclusion, which in turn will create a better future for all of the peoples of the region.

Originally published on Middle East Forum:

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Gregg Roman is an investigative journalist and Director of the Middle East Forum.

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