But the gambit backfired. Israelis now harbor a deeply disheartening sense that peace talks and concessions achieve little besides increased violence.
“Every piece of territory we've pulled out of in the past 10 years has been used to launch rockets at us,” said Chaim, an Israeli taxi driver who supported Oslo, referring to Lebanon and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal. “Why should we give them more land for launching more rockets?”
Almost as if on cue, the very same Palestinian leadership engaged in the peace talks has been reassuring its public that “armed struggle” remains very much the right of the Palestinian people.
As documented by the invaluable Palestinian Media Watch, various Palestinian Authority leaders responded to the Hamas murder of four Israelis two weeks ago by criticizing solely the timing while explicitly supporting the morality of “armed struggle”—when done at the right time. Perhaps not coincidentally, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas proudly stated last week that his policies are the same as Arafat’s, under whom he served for decades.
Belief in “Palestine” as running from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea will not suddenly dissipate. It is deeply ingrained in the public psyche, reinforced by the annual commemoration of al-Naqba, which marks “the catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948. Children are taught to hate Israel and “Zionists,” and adults are reminded at every turn that the entire land is rightfully theirs.
Further hardening the Palestinian position is that the society is much more Islamic than 20 years ago. Arafat, not Hamas, instituted radical Islamic curriculum into the schools, and he put fiery clerics on TV to deliver weekly sermons. His idea was both to co-opt Hamas and to pull the society behind his terror campaign.
Arafat might be gone, but the poison remains in the well. So even if Abbas has a miraculous change of heart and embraces peace with a Jewish state of Israel, it’s not clear he’d have any meaningful support at home.
Which raises the question hanging over the entire peace process: Would the Palestinians accept an agreement to live side by side with a Jewish state of Israel and relinquish what they've long envisioned as “Palestine”?
Until there’s at least a chance that Palestinians would embrace true peace, it’s a safe bet that while Israelis want peace, they won’t care about the seemingly endless cycle of peace talks.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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