Cliff May

It’s not as though this were a new idea. In 1947 the United Nations proposed the partition of the Palestinian Mandate – territories that came under British control when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I -- into independent Arab and Jewish states. (Why did the UN not propose Palestinian and Jewish states? Because back then “Palestinian” was a term used to refer to Arabs and Jews – and more often to the latter.)

The Jewish leaders of Palestine agreed to take the deal. Palestine’s Arab leaders -- and the leaders of all the existing Arab states -- rejected it, and sent their armies to strangle the State of Israel in its crib. Against all odds, Palestinian Jews defended themselves successfully.

The failure of this first war against Israel might have resulted in at least grudging acceptance of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Instead, as Canadian author George Jonas has noted, it produced among the Arabs “the special humiliation of a Goliath beaten by David.”

In 1967, the states on Israel’s borders launched another major war to push the Jews into the sea. Again, Israelis prevailed. At the Arab League summit that followed, eight Arab heads of state issued the “Three No’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations” with Israel.

Nevertheless, the 1967 war opened what seemed like a great opportunity: Gaza and the West Bank, which had been ruled by Egypt and Jordan respectively, were in Israeli hands. Why not create an independent Palestinian state in these territories – the first such state in history? All that would be necessary would be for the leaders of that state to recognize and peacefully coexist with Israel. But no Palestinian leaders have been willing to accept that, and even today no leaders of Arab and Muslim states are urging them to do so.

At this point, whatever Abbas may want– I don’t claim to be able to read his mind or heart – he’s savvy enough to know that if he agrees to end the conflict with Israel -- on almost any terms, no matter how favorable to Palestinians -- Hamas would declare him an “Arab Zionist” and a traitor, crimes for which Hamas would seek to impose capital punishment without the nuisance of lawyers and trials and such; as would Lebanon-based Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy, and Iran’s rulers who are aiming to become the region’s nuclear-armed hegemon.

Some say that Netanyahu faces the same threat: In 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated after proposing that Israel make far-reaching concessions for peace. It’s my conviction that Netanyahu – whose brother was the only Israeli soldier killed during the successful rescue of hostages from Palestinian terrorists at Entebbe in 1976 – would take that risk, and even accept that fate, if he believed it meant giving Israelis the gift of a durable peace.

What I don’t believe is that Abbas will present Netanyahu with such a decision. What I don’t believe is that the renewed peace process Kerry initiated ever had the slightest chance of changing Abbas’ mind.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.