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Do the Palestinians Want Two States?

Is the Palestinian “popular uprising” in its current manifestations the preferred form of struggle for the Fatah leadership – as opposed to small-scale demonstrations at focal points of friction? When an interviewer on a prominent TV show on the official Palestinian channel directed this question to Tawfik Tirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Tirawi answered unequivocally in the affirmative.

Tawfik Tirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee

Tawfik Tirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee (Arab media)

The former head of Palestinian General Intelligence went on to boast of the young Palestinian generation’s awareness of the struggle, and, as an example, cited his son, who while not yet three years old, sings of the shahids [martyrs] and asks his father to bring him a rifle so that he can vanquish Israel and the Zionists. Noting that in another two years it will be 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, Tirawi asserted that the Palestinians have waged an ongoing struggle to liberate their land ever since.

This is the context in which to regard the current wave of terror attacks. As Tirawi explains, there is no single act that will achieve the long-awaited objective, just a “cumulative struggle.” In his view, Fatah has not ruled out any approach since its 2009 Sixth General Congress. At the moment, though, there is no point to negotiations since not only Benjamin Netanyahu and his “extremist government” but also the Israeli left and center are not prepared to give anything to the Palestinians. Hence, the need for an ongoing campaign that can return the Palestinian issue to the international and Arab stage and gain leverage for the renewal of the negotiations sometime in the future.

With that in mind, Tirawi explains, acts involving “hot weapons [firearms]” – as Hamas urges – should be avoided since they stir the world’s disapproval. The nature of the current struggle, however (even including the murder of Israelis with knives), is completely consistent with Palestinian aspirations.

Tirawi has complaints about the world: It shows understanding for Israel’s behavior, which, he says, involves terror, firearms, and the execution of Palestinians, yet accuses the Palestinians, who are resorting to the stone and the knife, of terrorism. As for the Americans, he has no expectations of them; they are biased in the Israelis’ favor and he has clear-cut proof of it: “John Kerry uses the term ‘Temple Mount,’ which testifies to the fact that he accepts Israel’s position on this issue.” (The Palestinians, of course, claim that there was never a Jewish Temple at the site.)

The Palestinian Leadership Encourages Terror

That, then, is the stance of the Palestinian leadership. Driven by a mix of hatred, frustration over continued Israeli control of the territories, an outlook that denies the existence of the Jewish people and its right to a democratic nation-state in its homeland, and a sense of victimhood that is fed by their national and religious leaders, the Palestinians are sustaining their onslaught of indiscriminate murder even though, seemingly, it is of no avail to them. Their leadership encourages the terror because, on the one hand, it fears that the Palestinian issue will be pushed to the margins and is no longer perceived as the root of the regional instability, while, on the other, there appears to be growing awareness that there is no solution in the foreseeable future and, thus, no reason that the international community should invest resources in the issue.

Meanwhile, neither the agreed arrangement on the Temple Mount, which is important in itself, nor the security measures, nor attempts to meet Palestinian demands in certain regards, nor the declining interest in the stabbings phenomenon in Israel and the world as it loses its initial shock value are persuading the Palestinian leadership to stop sending Palestinian young people to die and kill. The fervor that accompanies the official funerals of the terrorists indicates the depth of the sentiments involved.

Israel, along with its efforts to bring an end to the wave of terror, has been busying itself with a series of historiosophical questions such as: Will the war last forever? (Apparently for as long as the Palestinians cling to their far-reaching demands and to the above-described strategy of struggle.) What is the connection between the Palestinians and the Holocaust? What would Rabin have done had he not been assassinated? (He was very distant from the whims of Peres and the left and very suspicious of the Palestinians, especially after they hoodwinked Israel on the matter of the “Oslo Accords.” For him peace was a means to ensure the existence and security of the nation-state of the Jewish people, as his last speech to the Knesset also makes clear.) Does the Palestinian use of the term “the Israeli people” reflect their opposition to the establishment of a nation-state for the Jewish people? Mahmoud Abbas himself has again declared that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He provides a plethora of excuses and three real reasons as well: such recognition would nullify the “right of return,” make it harder for the Israeli Arabs to promote Palestinian interests within the Israeli political scene, and would require a change in the Palestinian narrative. Those are exactly the reasons why Israel insists that only such recognition, which the Palestinians refuse to grant, can guarantee real peace.

In his speech to Congress in May 2011, Netanyahu did not demand that Abbas become a Zionist and recognize the Jewish people’s right to a state in the land of its forefathers. It would be sufficient, he said, for Abbas to accept that Israel is the (democratic) nation-state of the Jewish people, without connection to the question of a right. Just as many Zionists now recognize the Palestinian people’s right to a nation-state in its land in the framework of the permanent settlement, so long as it does not constitute a threat to Israel’s security, so must the Palestinians be required to recognize the Jewish people’s right to a democratic nation-state in the land of its forefathers.

The notion of being rescued from this situation by a unilateral separation, which some on the Israeli left have been raising of late, is not feasible under the current circumstances for the same reason, namely, that the Palestinians will not agree to it (see the Gaza precedent). The idea of one state, too, lacks all logic and feasibility. The only possible solution is that of two states for two peoples with mutual recognition. It has not died; it simply has not yet been born because the Palestinians, and the Europeans who support them, refuse to allow its birth.


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A version of this article appeared in Ha’aretz in Hebrew on November 8, 2015.


About Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
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