Nov. 2, 2015
Sorry Bill, It’s Not Up to Israel – Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
Bill Clinton spent the years after he left the White House loudly and bitterly lamenting the fact that Yasir Arafat cost him a Nobel Peace Prize. Clinton hosted a peace summit at Camp David in the summer of 2000 at which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state including almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza in exchange for peace. Arafat said no and months later launched a terrorist war of attrition.
But in spite of this, Clinton told a huge crowd in Tel Aviv on Oct. 31 that “it is up to you” in order to make peace in the Middle East. Clinton was an honored guest at a peace rally/commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder. It is all well and good to praise the search for peace. But the last 22 years have taught us that it clearly is not up to the Israeli people.
Barak repeated the offer the next year, and Ehud Olmert sweetened it in 2008. Both times the Palestinians against refused. Before that, Ariel Sharon withdrew every soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza, hoping to create an opening for peace. Each time Israel took the kind of risks for peace that its friends and critics had been urging it to do, yet got neither peace nor credit for the sacrifice.
What more can Israel do to convince the Palestinians to make peace than they have already done? According to the Obama administration and critics of the Netanyahu government, they need to stop building homes in existing settlements in the West Bank and 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or release more convicted terrorists.
But does anyone really think that will convince the Palestinians to make peace when offers like the ones Barak and Olmert made were not enough? Did Sharon’s experiment in trading land for peace – which turned out to be an exchange of territory for terror – not go far enough?
The problem isn’t Israel not recognizing Palestinians’ rights and aspirations. The problem is that even PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian lauded by President Obama as a moderate and a champion of peace, won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
It’s not the Israelis who need the lectures from Clinton and Obama. It’s the Palestinians. Israel has taken plenty of risks for peace. It’s time for Americans to stop ignoring that fact and start putting pressure on Israel’s foes to take some risks of their own.