When it involves Israel, the international community’s hearing is notoriously selective yet never capricious or random. There is method in the apparent arbitrariness of what does and does not compellingly impress the self-appointed adjudicators of all that’s virtuous and/or villainous in our setting.
Israel’s own largely left-dominated media – forever engaged in advocacy journalism and tendentiously promoting hyped humbug – isn’t remarkably better.
The obliging etiquette of de rigueur enlightenment demands that Israel’s culpability be accentuated and amplified in all circumstances. Simultaneously, any Arab belligerence must by the niceties of politically correct protocol be disguised, discounted and ultimately denied. Stonewalling must be ascribed exclusively to the uncool Jewish state.
The hardly unforeseeable upshot is that nowhere was much interest shown in Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas’s latest song and dance. Deprived of resonance, the story of his two recent meetings in Paris with US Secretary of State John Kerry expired virtually unnoticed.
This means that few news-consumers, either at home or abroad, can conceivably be expected to realize that Abbas has just delivered three major no’s to Kerry, who is gung-ho on imposing an instant all-encompassing final solution to the Mideast problem – one that has eluded lesser minds than his for the past century-and-a-half.
Since his own ambitious nine-month deadline is fast nearing, Kerry wishes to wow the benighted natives with at least a fuzzy outline of a deal. Abbas has, nonetheless, inconsiderately demolished key components of Kerry’s fragile framework but he’s unlikely to get much flak for his intransigence.
Essentially this arises from the trendy predisposition to blame Israel for anything and absolve the Arab side of everything. This means that few pro forma informed individuals anywhere would at all discover that Abbas has walloped Kerry with the following three strident rebuffs:
1. Abbas’s purportedly moderate Palestinian Authority (the Ramallah half, as distinct from the Jihadist Gaza segment that’s notably altogether beyond Abbas’s control) will categorically not recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in this region (i.e. the conflict will never end, no matter what paper the PA may sign and thereafter promptly disown or interminably quibble about).
2. The PA will insist on a judenrein status for any land ceded by the Jews – even lands known from antiquity as Judea, long before any Arab invaders emerged from the Arabian Peninsula and long before the world came to know European meddlers like Britain, France, Germany or Spain, to say nothing of newbie synthetic concoctions like Belgium. In other words, the PA will not agree to land swaps that would allow Israel to keep areas that have become unassailably Israeli in the past 47 years.
3. Finally, and most critically, the PA will not relinquish what it promotes as its “right” to inundate sovereign Israel with untold millions of hostile Arabs (self-styled refugees). This means that the PA adamantly clings to the agenda of, in due course, wiping out the Jewish state once and for all.
Most of the multitudes who presumably comprise public opinion – both within Israel and overseas – couldn’t in all plausibility have even detected any fleeting resemblance between Abbas’s latest three no’s and the three no’s enunciated so bombastically in Khartoum shortly after the Six Day War of 1967. The Arabs had that year launched a concerted effort to annihilate Israel but failed, lost more territory as a consequence and then began whining wretchedly about Israeli “occupation.”
Representatives of all Arab League members and the PLO hobnobbed in Sudan on August 29, 1967, and on September 1 they published their resolution, popularly dubbed as the three no’s: “no peace, no recognition, no negotiation with Israel.”
It would serve us well to recall that this was when Israelis delusionally awaited, as Moshe Dayan phrased it, “a telephone call” from Arab leaders. We sincerely convinced ourselves that given the new realities in the region, there’s no alternative for the Arab world but to shake off its refusal to accept Israel and to opt for a durable reconciliation.
Had the Arabs operated according to our own patterns of logic, this indeed should have been the outcome. But the idealistic expectations that our refined rationale would modify the reactions of others were (and, alas, still are) pie-in-the-sky. Then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban promised we’d be “unbelievably generous in working out peace terms.” In direct talks with official Arab interlocutors, he stressed, “everything is negotiable.”
Now, almost half-a-century later, Abbas consciously chooses to echo Khartoum’s rejectionist doctrine. He has announced three analogous no’s of his own: no to recognizing a Jewish state, no to tolerating Jewish settlement blocs and no to forgoing the demand that Israel be overrun by masses of inimical Arabs (marketed to all and sundry as the Right of Return).
This is all fundamentally important, not least because Abbas has again definitively defined what it’s all about, even if we are too distracted and loath to listen to him – as we just about always are.
True, Abbas no longer absolutely renounces even the façade of negotiations. To be sure, he’ll embrace the façade but only on condition that the result of these ostensible negotiations is fully determined a priori and rammed right down Israel’s exposed throat.
Abbas countenances letting his representatives kind-of palaver with Israeli negotiators (actually via American intermediaries) if Israel consents beforehand to shrink back to the 1949 armistice lines. He further demands that Israel cease all “settlement” construction, including in beyond-Green-Line veteran Jerusalem neighborhoods. The construction freeze, needless to emphasize, applies to Jews only – in the spirit of goodwill to all men (except for some).
This in effect is Abbas’s counterpart to Khartoum’s no-negotiation stipulation. Abbas has set up a hurdle so high that, without duplicitous pretense, it becomes unsurpassable and thereby makes genuine negotiations a farce.
Next comes Abbas’s present-day equivalent to Khartoum’s no-recognition proviso. While not identical in wording, its bottom line is no different from the 1967 prototype. Abbas repeats insolently that recognition of Israel as the legitimate nation-state of the Jewish people is out of the question – not now, not ever, no way, nowhere, under no condition.
This isn’t a negligible semantic equivocation. It means a refusal to accede even to the 1947 UN Partition Resolution minimum which determined that the Jewish people deserve a state. To crush said UN Resolution, seven Arab armies attacked the overwhelmingly outmanned and outgunned newborn Israel but lost, triggering their piteous lamentations to this day.
As long as the very notion of the rightful existence of a Jewish state is repudiated, the irredentist ambition to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state will fester and rule out even a remote likelihood of a true and lasting peace.
The Arabs’ current tactic is to admit that a state called Israel is a de facto reality in their midst, even if an unwelcome one. But current realties can be changed. If Israel is judged as illegitimate, then the temptation will forever remain to eliminate this illegitimacy. Hence, refusing to accept the de jure rightful existence of a Jewish state is nothing less than declaring the intention to keep on challenging and destabilizing it till a more convenient opportunity presents itself to erase it off the map altogether.
This is a potent, dominant and recurring Arab theme – not pedantic hair-splitting by a deliberately obstructionist Israel. The difference between de facto and de jure is crucial. Herein lies nothing less than the core issue. At stake isn’t the creation of a second Arab state in original Palestine (the first being Jordan, which occupies some 80% of the British Palestine mandate territory).
What actually hangs in the balance is the ongoing survival of the Jewish state.
Yesteryear’s uninhibited bluster about throwing the Jews into the sea was a public relations flop. However, the reverse is true for the revamped upscale “narrative” that not only camouflages the continuous and unmitigated antagonism against Israel, but portrays Jews as ogre conquistadors who deny the ancient Palestinian nation the self-determination violently usurped from it.
Abbas routinely proclaims that not only do Jews have no history whatsoever in this land (an extraordinary assertion in itself), but that Palestinian-Arab history here dates back to 7000 BCE – i.e. 9000 years! This cheeky canard goes over big. It seemingly doesn’t offend liberal sentiments, while appealing to the postmodern zeitgeist and to that latent Judeophobia still lurking sinisterly throughout Europe.
How will this veiled plot to obliterate Israel be carried out?
Here we arrive at Abbas’s third “no.” His tool will be the Right of Return, i.e. the right uniquely reserved for assumed descendents of so-called Palestinian refugees to deluge Israel. This will render Israel ripe for full Arabization, shorn eventually of any shreds of Jewish identity – down to the last vestiges like its name, emblem, flag and national anthem.
We won’t even raise the macabre specter of bloodshed. Little imagination is demanded of anyone familiar with the history of this country since the mid-19th century and the accompanying omnipresent popular Arab shouts of itbach el-yahud (slaughter the Jews).
Not least, the dismissal of the settlement-bloc formulation should squash any lingering pipedreams among those Israelis who hope against hope that it’s possible to reconcile Abbas’s insistence on the 1949-1967 non-border demarcations with Israel’s inability to again compress itself, ever-vulnerable, into those existentially threatening confines.
Abbas delivered an inconsiderate kick-in-the-teeth to those of us who clutch at hallucinations about land-swaps that would leave us with significant settlement blocs.
His non-starter preconditions are that we squeeze ourselves back into what super-dove Eban labeled “the Auschwitz lines,” that we forget about Jewish-state legitimacy and that we agree to the piecemeal Arab takeover of the defenseless-cum-illegitimate entity provisionally going under the name of Israel.
Remember, besides rudely spurning Israel’s outstretched hand in 1967, The Khartoum conferees underscored their three no’s by reaffirming “the Palestinians’ right to regain the whole of Palestine,” i.e. destroy the State of Israel.
That was precisely Abbas’s latest message – albeit in somewhat more discreet words. It may be frustrating but what was is what is – even if the more self-professed progressive sorts among us progressively refuse to admit it.