The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a document called “Israel, the Conflict and Peace: Answers to frequently asked questions“. It’s a remarkably straightforward and well-written exposition of the present government’s strategy of seeking peace with the Palestinians in the framework of a two-state solution.
Whatever you think of the prospects for success of this approach, it is based on the views expressed by President Bush in his speech of June 2002, and on the so-called ‘Roadmap‘ derived from that — although the Bush Administration may have moved further toward the Arab point of view since then (a recent Bush speech mentioned the Saudi/Arab League Peace Initiative approvingly).
The paper is very readable and interesting, building on the idea of the two-state solution while making clear what Israel expects from its partners in the upcoming negotiations. However, one section in particular — about incitement — struck me as being emblematic of the reason why the whole enterprise has such a small chance of success.
When you read this section, which is specifically directed to incitement against Israel by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, keep in mind that similar remarks could be made about almost any Arab country, including (especially) Egypt, with whom Israel is allegedly at ‘peace’.
There is a direct connection between anti-Israeli or antisemitic incitement and terrorism. The extreme anti-Israeli indoctrination that is so pervasive in Palestinian society nurtures a culture of hatred that, in turn, leads to terrorism.
The Palestinian education system, media, literature, songs, theater and cinema have been mobilized for extreme anti-Israeli indoctrination, which at times degenerates into blatant antisemitism. This incitement to hatred and violence is pervasive in Palestinian society, particularly in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It exists in nursery schools and kindergartens, youth movements, schools, universities, mosque sermons, and street demonstrations. Incitement creates a culture of hatred and violence, which in turn provides fertile ground for terrorism and murder.
Incitement against Israel has many faces. It begins by totally ignoring the very existence of the State of Israel. Maps in schools and universities do not bear even the name of Israel, nor a large number of its cities and towns. Beyond that, inciters extol the names and deeds of the suicide bombers, name football teams after them, and hold the terrorists up as models to be emulated. Incitement includes antisemitic cartoons that use the same kind of motifs and imagery that were used against the Jews during the Nazi era.
The many attempts to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict are known, not coincidentally, as the peace process. The transition from a state of war to a state of peace is not the result of just a one-time diplomatic act of signing an agreement. Rather it is a process that continues over time, a process that demands mutual efforts to change positions, values, and the perception of the former enemy. It requires a transition to a new paradigm, the creation of a new state of mind.
There is no legitimate reason why Israeli children learn about peace and coexistence in their schools, while at the same time Palestinian children are learning to honor the suicide bombers and jihad. Those who desire peace should educate for peace, and not promote hatred and murder.
The Palestinians’ vehement anti-Israel rhetoric has had a crippling impact throughout the region on efforts for peace. The intense coverage of the Palestinian perspective of events and incitement from Palestinian spokespersons have enflamed anti-Israeli sentiments in Arab countries, even influencing many pro-peace Arab states to downgrade their ties with Israel. Palestinian incitement causes violence in the short term, while in the long term it reduces the chances for peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors. [my emphasis]
The Palestinians and Israel’s other Arab neighbors have never been able to accept the “new paradigm” mentioned above. It is a strategic weakness on their part that — although they can dissemble in many ways — they simply cannot bring themselves to publicly, unequivocally lie about their belief that the Jewish state is illegitimate and their intention to ultimately rid themselves of it.
So despite agreeing to end incitement in the Oslo agreement, the Palestinian Authority promoted it as described above (using funds from international donors earmarked for building infrastructure for peace).
So Egypt, which tightly controls its media, nevertheless permits blatantly antisemitic expression in newspapers, television, etc.
So Hamas was willing to forgo huge amounts of money from Western donors in order to avoid uttering the formulas (recognition, acceptance of agreements, renunciation of violence) that were necessary to open the financial floodgates.
So ‘moderates’ Mahmoud Abbas and Salem Fayyad could not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
So the Saudi/Arab league plan offers ‘normal relations’ to Israel, but not recognition (and certainly not as a Jewish state). And the Saudis may come to Annapolis, but they aren’t going to shake any Israeli hands.
No, the fact is that the Palestinian and Arab position — hardened by their belief, formed by the Second Lebanon War, that Israel is no longer militarily superior to Arab/Iranian forces — is not a counterpart to the desire for peace on fair terms that is expressed in the Israeli FAQ quoted above.
Rather, they think that they are entitled to make demands for Israeli concessions and have them met — or else.