US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the Palestinians deserve a “viable” independent state with contiguous territory, seeking to reassure them of US support after the Interior Ministry on Tuesday approved a plan to expand the Jewish Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east Jerusalem…
“The United States pledges to play an active as well as a sustainable role in these talks,” Biden said. He stressed the Palestinians deserve an independent state that is “viable and contiguous,” meaning the territory should not be broken up by Israeli settlement enclaves.
Although this AP report doesn’t provide the complete quotation, I presume that Biden actually used the word ‘deserve’. Now, I will agree that all human beings, including Palestinian Arabs, deserve a secure existence and to live in an environment that’s not oppressive and where their political, economic and other aspirations can be realized. The question is, “does the Palestinian Authority or Hamas deserve the leadership role in the state that is to be created for them?” and the answer is “certainly not.” And that’s because both of these organizations have, as part of their fundamental self-definition, the violent negation of another state. Nobody ‘deserves’ a murderer-state. How could the logic be any simpler?
Let’s look at another word, ‘contiguous’. I think the AP’s interpretation of Biden’s statement, “the territory should not be broken up by Israeli settlement enclaves,” is misleading at best. In English, ‘contiguous’ means ‘touching’ or ‘connected to’. It means that you can get from any point in a contiguous area to any other point without leaving the area. It does not mean that there aren’t ‘enclaves’, it just means that they don’t break the territory into disconnected parts.
In fact, the use of the word ‘contiguous’ by the US has always referred to the Arab demand for a chunk of Israel to provide passage between Gaza and Judea/Samaria. Is Biden making a new demand, that there can’t be ‘enclaves’ or that the 1949 lines are sacrosanct? Something new that they ‘deserve’?
Biden said that the approval of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood “undermines peace efforts.”
Israel never agreed to a freeze on construction in East Jerusalem. Certainly there is no freeze on Palestinian construction there! So why does construction of apartments in an already existing Jewish neighborhood of 20,000 residents, a neighborhood which is located next to the northern boundary of West Jerusalem and other Jewish areas (not really an ‘enclave’), and which will have zero effect on ‘contiguity’, so unacceptable? Simply because the Palestinians say so.
But all this is beside the point. As I wrote yesterday, the bottom line for a Palestinian state which is other than a platform to threaten Israel is that its leadership commits to the basic principles that will distinguish it as a legitimate vehicle for Palestinian Arab sovereignty rather than a murderer-state:
- Recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people
- Agreement that there is no right of return to Israel for ‘refugees’
- Agreement to finally give up all claims against Israel and end the conflict
These principles cannot be byproducts to a negotiation about boundaries. They ought to be demanded by Israel as absolute preconditions to negotiation.
The Palestinian Arabs want a sovereign state; well, so do we. Let’s start from there.