Feb. 15, 2017
A Step toward Mideast Peace: Tell the Truth – Max Singer (Wall Street Journal)
If President Trump wants to advance the possibility of peace, he should begin by challenging the five big untruths that sustain the anti-Israel consensus:
Israel occupies “Palestinian territory.” This is nonsensical: There never has been a Palestinian government that could hold any territory, meaning Israel could not have taken “Palestinian land.” The West Bank is “disputed” land. Israel came to the territory it holds not only during a defensive war but also through historical and legal claims, including the 1922 League of Nations mandate to establish a Jewish homeland.
Millions of Palestinian “refugees” have a “right of return” to Israel. Practically none of the people so defined are refugees as normally defined; rather they are the descendants of refugees. The Arab world has kept them in misery for three generations to preserve their plight as a weapon against Israel. Privately, American diplomats understand that the normal description of Palestinian “refugees” is a fraud and that these descendants have no legal “right of return.”
Israelis and Palestinians have comparable claims to Jerusalem. Although Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque is significant in Islam, the city itself has essentially no religious importance. It is not mentioned in the Quran or in Muslim prayers. It was never the capital of any Islamic empire.
There was no ancient Jewish presence in Israel. Palestinian leaders insist that this is true. It feeds their claim that the Jews came to Israel as foreign colonialists. This falsehood can be sustained only because it is politely tolerated by the U.S. and Europe.
The Palestinians are ready to accept a “two-state solution” to end the conflict. The U.S. has a tendency to assume that Palestinian leaders are ready to accept Israel if suitable concessions are offered. But what is the evidence for this? When did the Palestinians give up their long-term commitment to destroy Israel? Undoubtedly, many Palestinians are willing and even eager for peace. Yet it is still taboo in Palestinian debate to publicly suggest accepting Israel’s legitimacy.
The writer, a founder of the Hudson Institute, is a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.