Whether the Palestinians Desire a State of their Own: An Account
Prior to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, there had been multiple suggestions for establishing an Arab-Palestinian state next to the Jewish state within Mandatory Israel.
The 1936 conclusion of the Peel Committee stated that the Transjordan and Mandatory Israel area would be divided into two separate states, one Israeli and the other Israeli-Arab. The Israeli Jews agreed to work toward this objective, but the Arabs refused, declaring they would reject any partition plan that allowed the establishment of a Jewish state.
In 1947, the UN-appointed UNSCOP committee suggested dividing a plot of land to the west of the Jordan river, giving one area to Jews and the other to Arabs. While the Jews gave consent, the Arabs objected, in similar fashion to the Peel Commission case.
The aforementioned Arabic dismissal of dual-country plans soon became a decision to go to war. As a direct result, one state was indeed established when the smoke cleared- the State of Israel.
Following the Six Day War, the state's shape changed yet again. Judea and Samaria, which according to the partition plan had been reserved for Arabs as a Jordanian conquest, now rested in Israeli hands. Several years after the war ended, the Palestinian leaders began peace negotiations with the Israeli leadership.
Since then, numerous reconciliatory agreements have been attempted by the two nations. In this article I shall review the various discussions in order to understand the reasons why, as of yet, no Palestinian state has been founded.
The Autonomy Plan:
By 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had devised a plan in which the Judean and Samaritan Arabs would retain the right to full autonomic conduct within eleven specified jurisdictions. These included education, religion, finances, transportation, housing and development, industry, tourism and trade, agriculture, health, employment and welfare, refugee rehabilitation, judicature, and even supervision of the local police force. This was known as the Autonomy Plan. It allowed Israel to maintain control of public regulation and security, while the Arab settlers would be permitted to choose which citizenship they preferred, whether Israeli or Jordanian. The Palestinian National Liberation Movement refused to take part, and boycotted the negotiations, as did the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).
The Camp David Accords:
The Palestinians were invited to take part in the Camp David Accords in 1978. This was a series of agreements signed between Israel and Egypt, stabilizing their then-rocky relations. It was suggested to the Palestinians to take advantage of these negotiations by using them to form their own government. However, they rejected these invitations and refused to participate.
The Oslo Accords:
During 1993, in the wake of the First Intifada, the Oslo Accords were signed. The accords divided Judea and Samaria, allotting 40% of the area to the Palestinian Authority. Judea and Samaria were divided into three districts: Area A to be under complete Palestinian control, Area B to be under Palestinian control in regards to all matters excluding security, and Area C to be wholly within Israeli authority. These concessions were meant as a temporary solution, the first of many arrangements designed to recognize both sides and thereby promote long-term peace. As part of the Oslo Accords, the PLO committed to putting an end to Palestinian terrorism. However, it seems the Palestinians had other ideas:
As the accords were being signed, with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin acting out the historic scene, a previously recorded tape of Arafat was explaining to the Palestinians that this was only a part of the “Stages Plan”, in which all of Palestine would be eventually "freed". Despite prior Palestinian assertions that all terror activity would be halted following the accords, Palestinian terror continued to be a reality for Jewish-Israeli citizens. During the 15 years following the Oslo Accords, 1,450 Israelis were brutally murdered- 1,180 more than were killed within the 15 years prior.
Arafat explained that he saw the Olso Accords as similar to Mohammad's centuries-earlier Khodiyeva Agreement, a peace treaty between the Prophet Mohammad and the Quraysh tribe in the year 628 BC which was to last for a span of ten years. Mohammad waited a mere two years before he attacked, after further arming himself.
Indeed, the Palestinians seemingly used the Oslo Accords to gain a more powerful position through which to collect ammunition. The Accords presented an opportunity to establish the Palestinian Authority and police force. Complying with the agreements, Israel armed the Palestinian police with plenty of weapons and equipment. As a direct result, the terror attacks became more violent, reaching new heights. Palestinian terrorists were expanding their repertoire. Instead of the knife stabbings that were common before the accords, suicide bombings were being carried out on buses and in other crowded areas, some within the first month after the concession. As Palestinian politician Ziad Abu Ain concluded on a televised interview in 2006, “It’s thanks to them that we were able to carry out the Second Intifada”.
Incidentally, the use of terror as a method to achieve Palestinian objectives is a direct transgression of the 1933 Declaration of Principles agreed upon by both the PLO and Israel: According to Article XV, labeled Resolution of Disputes, “Disputes which cannot be settled by negotiations may be resolved by a mechanism of conciliation to be agreed upon by the parties.” In a letter to Yitzhak Rabin discussing the Declaration of Principles, Yasser Arafat promised to put an end to any violent action, as well as to any other action liable to endanger peace and stability.
Wye River Memorandum:
Signed on the 23rd of October, 1998 and taking effect on November 2nd, 1998, The Wye River Memorandum was a contract between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat. It denoted that Israel would withdraw from various areas of Judea and Samaria through a triple-pulse series. The Palestinians, in return, would abolish their terrorist organisations. Though the Netanyahu Administration consummated the first step indicated by the memorandum, the Palestinians did not uphold their end, and continued to condone a barbaric atmosphere. As put by Farouk al-Qadumi, PLO Foreign Minister in 2003, “It demands of the Palestinians, first and foremost, to cease what they call violence and terrorism, and to us, this spells out submission”.
On the 4th of September,1999, a year after the Wye River Memorandum, Ehud Barak completed the steps that the Netanyahu administration had refused to take owing to the lack of Palestinian cooperation. This was known as the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum.
The Camp David Summit:
During the year 2000, US President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA leader Yasser Arafat to conduct another peace conference in the United States. Since President Jimmy Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1978 in the very same spot, President Bill Clinton hoped this would encourage an agreement again between Israel and the PLO 22 years later.
The document Failure or Folly, written by Atalia Ben-Meir, describes the event as follows:
"To encapsulate, Israel’s official open positions at Camp David was a ratio of 12-88 (12% annexed to Israel and 88% transferred to the Palestinians), but unofficially, Israel was prepared to pare off another two to four percent and compromise on eight to ten percent. Israel was not prepared to compromise on Jerusalem nor on its objections to a territorial swap. The Palestinians, in contrast, from the first day of the summit, insisted that the discussion open with recognition by Israel of the 1967 lines, rigidly maintaining their stance on this point. Even Abu Alaa vehemently refused to enter into any negotiations before everyone recognized the June 4, 1967 borders, informing Clinton: “Mr. President, I cannot take my hand, part of my body, [and] give it to somebody else.” Clinton, boiling mad, told Abu Alaa, “Sir, you hold personally the responsibility for the failure of the summit. If you want to address speeches, go to the United Nations Security Council, address speeches there. Don’t waste my time here.” According to Ben-Ami, Clinton turned completely red, demanding that the Palestinians come up with positive proposals of their own, and then he stalked out. Abu Alaa was so deeply offended that he ostracized himself from all further discussions at Camp David."
With Palestinian cooperation absent from the peace process, and the Gaza Strip continually battered by rocket attacks, 2005 saw Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon carrying out the Disengagement Plan. The strategy was to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and from four other north Samarian settlements, in the hopes that a decision of this magnitude would earn the support of the international community, as well as the approval of United States President George W. Bush. This action would also demonstrate Israel’s support of any necessary action concerning the advancement of peace. Israel optimistically hoped that in return, the Palestinians would fulfill the commitments they had made to the United States in accordance with the “Road Map to Peace”. The Road Map included a Palestinian declaration which stated immediate cessation of Palestinian violence. Nevertheless, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, “There were 861 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards the settlements of the western Negev, in comparison with 222 rockets fired in 2005 and 268 fired in the year 2004”.
In 2009, following reentrance of the Netanyahu Administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar Ilan University, in which he invited the Palestinians to join him and negotiate for peace once again. In his public address, Netanyahu announced that Israel accepts the idea of a Palestinian state residing alongside the State of Israel, as long as the Palestinians do not establish an army, for reasons of security. This declaration was met with many positive reactions from the international community: The United States affirmed that this is an essential step, and the French government gave their support. Even so, not only was this gesture met with no cooperation from the Palestinian government, the Sixth Fatah Congress moved to declare that it does not recognise the State of Israel, and that it is necessary to use every legitimate action so as to oppose it. Furthermore, Ahmad Bahar, then first deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), remarked “This speech proves that resistance [terrorism] is the only way for the Palestinians to receive the rights they deserve”.
The Deal of the Century:
As January 2020 came to a close, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Donald Trump presented the “Deal of the Century”, while Palestinian leadership proclaimed its uninterest in an arrangement brokered by Trump. According to a message from the Palestinians, the United States has lost its position as a respectable mediator.
The plan includes doubling the area under Palestinian reign; connecting the Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria with the Gaza Strip; and a 50 billion dollar United States donation in support of the Palestinians' “new state”. In return, Jerusalem will be established as the Israeli capital and the Hamas will give in their weapons. As previously mentioned, the Palestinians refused to take part in the plan, openly opposing it. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, declared, “The Deal of the Century is what incited the latest escalation [of violence].” According to the new Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan, their relationship with Israel will only stabilize “When a peace agreement is signed- one which complies with the Palestinian conditions”.
In conclusion, ever since 1936, the Palestinians have had many opportunities to compromise their way into a Palestinian state. Time and again, they have refused to cooperate, their actions ranging from simple negotiation ostracism to full blown terror attacks on Israeli citizens, in stark contrast to their previous commitments. Their reactions and decisions continually put an end to political processes that were meant to establish a Palestinian state.
This historical account begs the question of whether the Palestinians are truly committed to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Moreover, I would ask the reader, is it truly plausible to blame Israel for not taking enough action in order to reach such a goal?