Most of my columns are directed at Israelis, Jews and a pro-Israel audience – the primary readership of The Jerusalem Post. Every so often I direct a column to Palestinians and pro-Palestinian audiences – this is one of them. As I do with my regular columns, I am critical and always try to be constructive, looking toward getting to peace on the basis of two states for two peoples.
Let me start by saying that I believe deeply that in the not-too-distant future the Israeli public and its supporters will wake up to the nearly 50-year binational reality under its control and understand that in order to preserve Israel’s identity as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people it will find a way of relieving itself of control over the Palestinian people and their future state. This process can be sped up and the quality of a future negotiated agreement could be much better if the Palestinians were to engage in some deep self-reflection and take steps and initiatives that would, in the end, help them significantly as well.
Palestinian society at large has failed a major morality test by lending support to the wave of killings and attempted killings of Israelis by mostly young Palestinians.
Most of those young Palestinians end up getting killed themselves and they bring absolutely no glory or achievement to Palestine. They are not heroes and they are not martyrs. They are more victims of this horrible conflict that must come to an end. They may be responding to despair, lack of a political or economic horizon. They might be incited to act by the prospect of fame in social media. They may wish to provide their families with fame, and financial resources from the Palestinian Authority after their death. This must stop.
It will only really come to an end when Palestinian society calls for it to stop and when such individuals are no longer supported as martyrs and heroes for Palestine. They are acting against Palestinian interests and any support of their actions is a moral failing of Palestinian society. (And yes, I have condemned violence of Israelis and of Israel many, many times and will continue to do so).
Palestinians must call for review of the textbooks in their schools and even though they are much less worse than painted in the media around the world, the absence of the recognition of Israel in those text books is a Palestinian failure to send the message that Palestine is truly interested in peace with Israel. Even if Israel is guilty of the same crime of omission, and Israel should also reflect the existence of Palestinians and their rights in textbooks, the absence of Israeli will to make those changes now should have nothing to do with the absence of Palestinian will to do the right thing. Israel exists and is recognized by the world and Palestine does not yet exist in reality and will not exist until Israel recognizes it.
In the same context, even though I have never requested that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the majority of Israelis and supporters of Israel will never believe that Palestinians are truly interested in peace until they do. Palestine does not make any concession on Palestinian rights or the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel by doing so.
It is certainly possible for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and all of its citizens. It is possible for Palestinians to condition recognition of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people on the equal rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. In recognizing the two-state solution, Palestinians have essentially already made the giant step. Now it is time to complete it.
Even Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet, in writing the Palestinian Declaration of Independence wrote: “Despite the historical injustice done to the Palestinian Arab people in its displacement and in being deprived of the right to self-determination following the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947, which partitioned Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State, that resolution nevertheless continues to attach conditions to international legitimacy that guarantee the Palestinian Arab people the right to sovereignty and national independence.” It is the very same resolution that grants legitimacy to the rights of the Jewish people to sovereignty and national independence.
Furthermore, Palestinians should willingly declare that there is no objection to a Jewish minority in the Palestinian state which would recognize Palestinian sovereignty and abide by Palestinian laws. Palestinians should also openly acknowledge, as they have in negotiations, that Jerusalem must be the capital of both states, Israel and Palestine, and that the Jewish people have a long history, heritage and connection to Jerusalem – as acknowledged in Muslim tradition over centuries. The Jews are not strangers in the Land of Israel and in Jerusalem, just as the Palestinians are not.
Finally, it would be tremendously beneficial to Palestine and to Israel if the Palestinians were to issue their own peace initiative directed to Israelis. The initiative should be sincere and should consider what Palestinians know of Israeli positions in previous negotiations. The initiative should present Palestinians’ visions and hopes for real peace and should include those interests which are vital to Palestinians needs and plans. It is time for the Palestinians to take the lead and to tell Israelis and the world what they really want. This will propel the cause of Palestine forward in a way that no acts of violence could ever do and will bring about a coalescence of Israeli public and international support for a free and liberated Palestine living in peace next to the State of Israel.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.