Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can’t go anywhere good. Both Arab and Jew know it. President Obama poses as the honest broker, but he too knows that talk of a lasting resolution of differences is 100-proof moonshine.
The Palestinians won’t settle for anything less than all Israelis dead, or shipped off to somewhere far away. The Israelis, unreasonable as they may seem in the salons of the West, are determined not to settle for anything less than survival.
The fashionable opinion in the salons of the West is that the dispute is all about land, territories and borders, considerations that could be negotiated by civilized men of good will. If the Israelis give a little, the Palestinians give a little, then all can be reconciled: “If your friends like my friends, and my friends like your friends, then we’ll all be friends together, and won’t that be fine?”
But the dispute is not about land. It’s about Israeli survival. The Palestinians and their radical Islamic allies insist they have one goal in mind, the destruction of the lonely outpost of civilization in a region of mindless violence, where trying to keep your head has a very specific meaning.
They’re emboldened by the 138-9 vote in the U.N. General Assembly to grant “nonmember observer” status to the Palestinian Authority, which they regard as official recognition of statehood. Synthetic statehood is only the beginning. “One day,” Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority president, told enraptured crowds when he returned triumphantly from New York, “a young Palestinian will raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.”
This is the reality from which so many of the elites in the West avert their eyes. On the day after the vote at the U.N., the Israeli Cabinet heard a summary of the inflammatory language the Palestinian Authority feeds tirelessly to its constituency, particularly in the schools. Several examples were culled from remarks Mr. Abbas delivered to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27, leading up to the grant of “nonmember observer” status. He repeated some of them last week. The creation of Israel, he said, represents “one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in history.” This was meant as a not-so-subtle reminder that history can repeat itself.
On the Facebook page of a high school in the town of Tulkarem, a photograph of Adolf Hitler is displayed over the words: “I could have killed all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so you will know why I killed them.” Maps of the region, distributed by the Palestinian Authority, do not even show Israel, a harbinger of the happy day envisioned by Mr. Abbas and his ilk.
“This is additional proof that we are not talking about a disagreement over territory,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet, “rather about the rejection of Israel’s existence.”
The elites in the West willfully ignore this reality, in part from cowardice, in part from ancient attitudes that refuse to die. Collaboration is held to be a virtue in France; no one was surprised when it voted to grant what the Palestinian Authority regards as “sovereign” status. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, talking a good game, told a podcast audience Sunday that “Germany will always stand by Israel” — except when it scuttles away, as it did when crunch time came at the U.N. General Assembly.
The Germans abstained from voting on Palestinian “nonmember observer” status. So did Britain. The message to Israel was clear: “Call us any time when you need help. With a little bit of luck we won’t be home.”
A test of American resolve comes this week, when the Senate is expected to vote on bipartisan legislation to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority if it appeals to the kangaroos of the U.N.’s International Criminal Court to punish “crimes” by Israel. That sounds tougher than it is. The aid would be cut off only if President Obama, a professed Christian who nurtures a schoolboy crush on Islam, determines that the Palestinians are not engaging in “meaningful negotiations” with Israel. Good luck with that.
“Jaw, jaw” is always better than “war, war,” as Winston Churchill famously remarked, even when one side gets all the discouraging words. The Israelis soldier on, stubbornly resisting the second-guessing of cowardly “friends,” because they have no choice. The prospect of hanging, as Dr. Johnson reminds us, concentrates the mind — and the will.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.