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Opinion

Israel wants peace. Period.

Since 1947, Israel has pushed for peace with Arab neighbours but has been met with violence, says Israeli journalist.

Last Modified: 13 Sep 2013 15:53
Israel Kasnett

The writer is Magazine Editor of The Jerusalem Post.
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Palestinians have never been a true partner in peace for Israel, asserts the writer [EPA]

Jerusalem - Israel wants peace. Period. The Jewish people have never held a desire to rule over others and this remains true today. Not only are we ohev shalom ["lovers of peace"], but we are also rodef shalom ["active pursuers of peace"].

So news of a possible breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1993, through the framework of what became known as the Oslo Accords, was initially met with enthusiasm among the Israeli public.

Al Jazeera World: The price of Oslo

It quickly became clear however, that PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people continued to seek the destruction of the Jewish state.

Without doubt, both the Israeli and Palestinian delegations should be given due credit for their attempt at peace. Unfortunately, these same people today fail to recognise that their effort to achieve what could have been a monumental moment in history has, since then, turned cataclysmic and tragic. No one can deny that the Oslo Accords brought about mutual recognition. But at the same time, it brought waves of Palestinian terrorism and continued rejectionism.

Since 1967, when Israel became the ruling military authority over the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, it has sought ways to arrive at a peaceful settlement with the Arab world. For this reason it has never entirely annexed any of these areas. In fact, in exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel gave up control of the entire Sinai.

The grand ideas adopted by Peres and his ilk have already been tossed into the dustbin of history by those who see such plans as naive, misguided overtures that have accomplished little but the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

Settlements are not the problem

Today, the Palestinians and much of the West claim that settlements are an obstacle to peace, but that has already been proven, untrue considering that Israel made peace with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Settlements were clearly not an obstacle to peace back then. Nor were they an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank and there were no settlements at all.

In 2005, in an effort to prove it is serious in reaching a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza Strip in the hopes that it would present a preliminary step toward statehood for the Palestinians. Instead, the Palestinians have turned it into a terror zone, firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and endangering millions of innocent civilians - Jewish and Arab alike.

Numerous Israeli peace overtures, no matter how generous, have been rejected by the Palestinians. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has implemented a settlement freeze, released Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands and publicly called for a two-state solution.

Rejected peace overtures

In 2008, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the farthest-reaching proposal to date in exchange for peace, but the Palestinians did not respond.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far-reaching proposals at Camp David in 2000. He too, was rejected.

The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded the State of Israel immediately following the announcement of its independence.

In 1947, Palestinian Arabs rejected the UN partition plan and gave up a historic opportunity to create an Arab state in British Mandate Palestine. Despite their dissatisfaction with the terms of the plan, the Jews immediately accepted, but were continuously attacked by Arab forces.

Perhaps it is true, that the maximum the Israelis can offer is less than the minimum the Palestinians can accept.

 

Many Palestinians, including those affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, rejected Oslo because they rejected recognition of, let alone peace with, Israel. Many Israelis however, did not reject the Accords out of disinterest in peace. Rather, they did not believe the Palestinians sincerely wanted peace.

And today their suspicion appears to have amounted to prophesy. For years, Israelis have been subject to terrorism and rocket attacks. Anti-Israel incitement is rife throughout Gaza and the Palestinian-controlled territories. 

And while its architects place the blame for the failure of the Accords on Netanyahu's first government in 1996, they fail to recognise that the true cause was Palestinian intransigence and rejectionism.

The grand ideas adopted by Peres and his ilk have already been tossed into the dustbin of history by those who see such plans as naive, misguided overtures that have accomplished little but the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

Israelis are sceptical about peace

To realist Israelis, the failed Oslo Accords, coupled with countless Palestinian terrorist attacks, rocket barrages indiscriminately aimed at Israel's innocent civilian population, the glorification of suicide bombers and continued incitement have proved beyond doubt the Palestinian disinterest in peace. Today, many Israelis believe that peace will not result from the current negotiation framework and pursuing it as such is as futile as fishing in the Dead Sea.

While realist Israelis believe that a Palestinian state could exist alongside Israel, they do not believe it will do so in peace and security. Nor do they believe Israel will remain "free from threats or acts of force" as UN Resolution 242 explicitly demands. 

Perhaps it is true, that the maximum the Israelis can offer is less than the minimum the Palestinians can accept.

Today, the misnamed "Arab Spring" and violent political upheaval surrounding Israel on all sides, proves that Israel must find a new, original approach to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict - a solution that will guarantee the abolition of Arab belligerence directed against it.

It also proves that for peace to gain a foothold in this region, the Palestinians must undergo full democratisation in its cities and towns - in both the West Bank and Gaza. As President Shimon Peres once wrote: "Nothing can better serve the Arab world, and particularly the Palestinian people, than genuine democratisation."

The failure of the past 20 years has taught Israel that it cannot make peace with only some of the Palestinians. Peace can only be achieved once all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza unify under one authority, with Hamas giving up its intent to destroy Israel - a declaration firmly ensconced in the Hamas Charter.

Former President Chaim Herzog's question in 1975 still rings true today: "The basic issue remains as it always had in the past: do the Arabs want peace?"

Looking back at the twenty years since Oslo, it is easy to see that the time has long passed for the Arab world to accept that it cannot "push the Jews into the sea" and that there will always be a Jewish state in the historic land of Israel.

Israel Kasnett is the Magazine Editor of The Jerusalem Post.

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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