The argument is about the Jewish state, not a Palestinian one

Here’s how Paul Reynolds of the BBC sees the chances that Annapolis will have a positive result:

There are perhaps only two reasons for any hope.

The first is the fear of something worse.

Annapolis can be seen as a way of trying to support the moderates.

The strategy is to show Palestinians that talks can produce results and that the confrontation promoted by Hamas in Gaza is not the way forward.

The danger is that this strategy might fail and leave the Palestinians with nothing and the Israelis still in the state of “siege” described by the Irish and UN diplomat Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1986.

I would suggest that the real danger is that this strategy might succeed, Israel will get out of the West Bank, and then the ‘moderates’ will stop pretending to be moderate or be replaced by Hamas. But Reynolds’ real point is to come:

The second is a better understanding that the philosophy behind Oslo and the road map might be wrong. Both those agreements sought to establish an atmosphere of peace and security first, leading to a final agreement second.

There is nothing wrong with trying to create better conditions, something for example that the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been trying to do on the economic front.

But without a final agreement, there can probably be no peace and security. Security will not lead to an agreement. It is an agreement that will lead to security.

In other words, unless Israel gives the Palestinians the agreement they want, there will not be peace and security. An ‘agreement’ sounds so civilized, but the word for concessions made to stop someone from trying to kill you is ‘appeasement’.

Is it too much to ask, as the roadmap and Oslo did, that the Palestinians stop terrorism before they get their state, especially since one would like to have some reason to think that they are capable of it before putting them in rocket range of Ben Gurion Airport? Apparently Reynolds thinks so.

It’s mind-boggling that the response to the failure of the Palestinians to meet their commitment to end terrorism, which was the primary reason for the collapse of Oslo and the Roadmap, should be to simply give up on the requirement and push Israel to hand over territory even while terrorism continues.

But there are other indications that Reynolds and the BBC see Israel, and not the Palestinians, as the main obstacle to peace:

There has been little sign that they are anywhere near agreement [on borders, Jerusalem, settlements, and ‘right of return’ for refugees].

Instead there has been a new argument – about an Israeli demand that Israel should be recognised as a “Jewish state”.

This is something fundamental for the Israelis but Palestinians see it as taking one of their cards – the refugees – off the table in advance.

First of all, this is not a ‘new’ argument. It is no more and no less than an insistence that the Palestinians (and the world) recognize that the Jews won the war of 1948, when a Jewish state was established in Mandatory Palestine. It is being articulated now because it is evident that the Arabs do not accept this.

The absolutely absurd, historically unprecedented, requirement that a hostile population of 4 to 5 million descendants of refugees from a war that their side lost 59 years ago ‘return’ — does not belong “on the table” at all, and it should be seen, along with the denial of Israel’s right to be a Jewish state, as a demand for the reversal of the outcome of the 1948 war. Far from a demand for self-determination for Palestinians, it is a refusal to grant this same right to Jews.

Reynolds and the BBC suggest that the issue is about such things as the size of the Palestinian state, how much of Jerusalem they will end up with, and the welfare of the refugee descendants.

What they don’t see, or (less charitably) pretend not to see is that this argument is not actually about the Palestinians and their state. More fundamentally, it’s about the Jews and theirs.

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