It is time for the Palestinian people to finally accept the permanence of an Israeli state. Ever since the British left the area on May 14, 1948, the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors have done everything they can to wipe the state of Israel off the map. A few of the more organized efforts have been the invasion by six Arab countries on May 15, 1948, the 1967 war when Egyptian state radio promised to “push the Jews into the sea” and the Yom Kippur war of 1973, when Israel suffered a surprise attack on the holiest day of the Jewish year.
Yet despite these major attempts at its removal, Israel has persevered, and in fact is stronger now than ever before. Within Israeli controlled territory, Palestinians have waged their own, more protracted war; terrorism being the main strategy aimed at innocent Israeli citizens. The motivation behind these tactics is simple: These attacks will precipitate Israel’s weakening and eventual elimination, and then a righteous state of Palestine will be established in its place. The reality that these Palestinian fighters must soon face is that Israel is not going anywhere.
So what should the Palestinians, who arguably deserve their own state, do? First they must accept the inevitability of a Jewish state in the region, and then work toward a diplomatic solution. Israel has always been willing to make sacrifices for such a deal, but at the same time has been wary of allowing terrorism to shape a final peace agreement. The result of Palestinians repeatedly turning away from diplomacy and toward terrorism and violence is the significant weakening of their negotiating power. Peace offers have grown less and less favorable to them over the years.
Before Israel even came into existence, the United Nations created the Partition Plan of 1947, which would have split the region roughly in half. The Palestinians would have attained sovereignty over one half of the region in dispute, as well as over east Jerusalem. The future Israelis accepted this plan, even though it forced them to make serious concessions, but the Palestinians did not. Instead they turned to war, believing that they could annihilate Israel and not make any compromises.
They were, of course, wrong. In July of 2000, after enduring years of barbarous suicide bombings and the like, Israel again attempted to secure peace. By this time, Israel had given land and many other concessions in exchange for peace agreements with both Egypt and Jordan. At Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinians their own state – 98 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – and sovereignty over parts of east Jerusalem. Again, the Israeli desire for peace would be denied. Interestingly, Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat, who negotiated on behalf of the Palestinians, rejected the terms of Camp David without suggesting any counteroffers. And again, the Palestinians turned toward terrorism.
The fall of 2000 brought the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, which continues to this day. The difference now, though, is that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon realizes he doesn’t have a Palestinian partner to try and make peace with. Sharon’s recent trip to visit President Bush, and the agreement they made regarding his new disengagement plan, testify to this newly pragmatic approach. Sharon’s plan includes Israel holding on to West Bank territory that Barak was willing to cede, and entails instituting Palestinian control over very little or none of Jerusalem.
If the Palestinian people don’t change their liberation strategy soon, Sharon’s plan will probably be enacted. The Israeli prime minister recently commented that Palestinians “can get a lot more through negotiations.” That is the moral of the story. To better their own future, the Palestinian people must abandon their idealized vision of an Israeli-less Middle East and embrace a more practical view of regional relations.
Joel Furman is a sophomore law & society major.