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The Problem with Lapid’s Weak Conditions for Establishing a Palestinian State

 
Filed under: Israel, Palestinians
Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs

The Problem with Lapid’s Weak Conditions for Establishing a Palestinian State
Prime Minister Yair Lapid addresses the United Nations General Assembly, September 22, 2022 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 22, No. 20

  • At the UN General Assembly in September, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed the dream of reaching an arrangement with the Palestinians that would rid Israel of the reality of the “occupation,” while at the same time achieving security for Israel. His remarks show that he understands how far we are from a solution. However, Lapid’s formulations regarding the conditions for establishing a two-state solution for two peoples indicate too little familiarity with past discussions of the issue.
  • Israeli prime ministers and U.S. presidents have made it clear to the Palestinians that the realization of the idea of a Palestinian state depends on their willingness to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Only such recognition can lead, after time, to the abandonment of terrorism and acceptance of the reality of two states for two peoples, one of which is the Jewish people.
  • President Trump raised a series of additional conditions including the cessation of incitement and hate indoctrination, the cessation of the payment of salaries to terrorists, giving up the attempt to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, and Palestinian willingness to accept Israeli security supremacy that would allow Israel to deal with those involved in terrorism against it in the territories of the Palestinian state.
  • As long as the Palestinians are committed to the narrative adhered to by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his UN remarks, the chances of a renewal of terrorism will be high. This narrative argues that the Palestinians have a vested right to the entire territory of historic Palestine, that there is no Jewish people and the Jews have no sovereign history in the Land of Israel/Palestine, and that Israel was established by colonialism and imperialism that wanted to rid themselves of the presence of the intolerable Jews in their countries and exploit them as a bridgehead in the struggle against Islam. Therefore, the Palestinians have the right and duty to fight for the realization of their goals, chief among them the victory over Zionism.
  • The idea that Israel needs to “strengthen the PA” reflects an exaggerated fear of its collapse. The PA is not in danger of collapse. It continues to function as a mechanism that manages the lives of Palestinians and employs some 160,000 officials. It also continues to be perceived, despite the criticism of its senior figures, as the Palestinians’ main national achievement. A focus on strengthening the PA ignores the fact that it does not fight terrorism but encourages it, perpetuates the Palestinian narrative through incitement, and works to promote this in the international arena as well.
  • Israel must continue to intensify its efforts to thwart terrorism as part of Operation “Break the Wave” and through increased military deployment in Jerusalem and at recognized friction points. The idea that refraining from action will stop the cycle of terrorism ignores the fact that the motivation for carrying out attacks is not due to the activities of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency on the ground, but is rooted in much deeper motives derived from the Palestinian narrative described above.

The speeches delivered at the UN General Assembly by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and American President Joe Biden, together with Abbas’ recent remarks on the “50 holocausts” that Israel carried out against the Palestinians and the tense situation in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, reflect the complex reality currently framing the Palestinian issue.

Lapid expressed the dream of a part of the Israeli public to reach an arrangement that would rid Israel of the reality of the “occupation,” while at the same time achieving security for Israel. His remarks on the lessons we have learned from the disengagement from Gaza reflect the distress faced by this part of the Israeli public, and they show that the prime minister understands how far we are from a solution. However, Lapid’s formulations regarding the conditions for establishing a two-state solution for two peoples are not clear enough and indicate a kind of naivety and too little familiarity with past discussions of the issue.

Past Discussions of Conditions for a Palestinian State

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, followed by Israeli Prime Ministers Sharon and Netanyahu, and apparently Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as President Obama, President Biden implicitly in his recent visit to Bethlehem, and of course President Trump in his peace plan, made it clear to the Palestinians that the realization of the idea of a Palestinian state depends on their willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Only such recognition can lead, after time, to the abandonment of terrorism and acceptance of the reality of two states for two peoples, one of which is the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Rabin simply ruled out the possibility of a Palestinian state under any conditions. Lapid, on the other hand, confined himself to a formula that ignores the roots of terrorism and conditions the establishment of the Palestinian state only on the cessation of terrorism. It is an approach that effectively guarantees dangerous concessions to expedite the realization of the false maxim of conflict resolution.

Trump raised a series of additional conditions – no less essential – including the cessation of incitement and hate indoctrination, the cessation of the payment of salaries to terrorists, giving up the attempt to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, and Palestinian willingness to accept Israeli security supremacy that would allow Israel to deal with those involved in terrorism against it in the territories of the Palestinian state. Lapid, for some reason, omitted all these stipulations.

In practice, the establishment of a Palestinian state under the conditions presented by Lapid will make it very difficult for Israel to act against terrorism when it resumes from the territory of the Palestinian state because it will be impossible for Israel to operate in the territory of a foreign country without restriction.

The Palestinians Remain Committed to Their Anti-Israel Narrative

Moreover, the chances of a renewal of terrorism will be high as long as the Palestinians are committed to the narrative adhered to by Abbas, together with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the other factions. This narrative, which was reflected in Abbas’ speech at the UN and in his problematic remarks in Germany, argues that the Palestinians have a vested right to the entire territory of historic Palestine, that there is no Jewish people and the Jews have no sovereign history in the Land of Israel/Palestine, and that Israel was established by colonialism and imperialism that wanted to rid themselves of the presence of the intolerable Jews in their countries and exploit them as a bridgehead in the struggle against Islam.

Therefore, the Palestinians have the right and duty to fight for the realization of their goals, chief among them the victory over Zionism, in all ways, including the use of violence and terrorism (although Mahmoud Abbas prefers, for cost-benefit considerations, to focus on violence that does not involve the use of firearms). In addition, the Palestinians must not relinquish their status as the exclusive collective victims of the conflict, continue to integrate the national and Islamic dimensions in their political campaigns, and maintain their refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

In order to justify such dangerous moves within the Israeli discourse, false threats are raised that if we do not promote moves that will lead to the existence of a Palestinian state, we will find ourselves unwillingly in the reality of one bi-national state, and that will be the end of the Zionist vision.

Yet this threat is completely baseless. The political separation between Israel and the Palestinians has already been carried out within the framework of the Oslo Accords and is reflected in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, which is the body through which the Palestinians realize their political rights and control their own destiny. This includes the Hamas-controlled system in Gaza and the Fatah-controlled system in Judea and Samaria. Raising concerns over a binational state is simply a tool to pressure Israel and justify the establishment of a Palestinian state or unilateral separations in the absence of the conditions for the establishment of this state.

The Intensification of Palestinian Terrorism

What should really bother Israel is the intensification of Palestinian terrorism as a result of the ongoing incitement and the erosion of the Palestinian Authority’s ability to fulfill its role as the manager of the territories under its control. This is due to the rampant corruption, and because of frustration by Mahmoud Abbas and many others in the Palestinian leadership over their inability to advance their political goals at Israel’s expense. This is due to both economic difficulties and because of the sense that Abbas’ hold on his position as chairman of the PA, the PLO, and Fatah is being undermined by his advanced age, and therefore everyone must prepare for the “day after.”

Does Israel Need to Strengthen the PA?

The Israeli response to this reality appears to be limited to the idea of “strengthening the PA,” reflecting an exaggerated fear of its collapse. In practice, despite its difficulties, the PA is not in danger of collapse. It continues to function as a mechanism that manages the lives of Palestinians and employs some 160,000 officials. it also continues to be perceived, despite the criticism of its senior figures, as the Palestinians’ main national achievement.

A focus on strengthening the PA ignores the fact that it does not fight terrorism but encourages it, perpetuates the Palestinian narrative through incitement, and works to promote this in the international arena as well. The PA also reconciles the involvement of Fatah elements and the PA security apparatuses in terrorism in the West Bank and even encourages this.

Although the PA sometimes acts against Hamas activists in its territory, as it has done recently in Nablus, this is mainly because it sees them as a threat to its survival in power. Israeli efforts are also carried out while ignoring the fact that the PA’s weaknesses are so profound that there is no assurance that Israel’s actions will actually lead to a change in the trend, and to some extent they are even harmful in portraying the PA as collaborating with Israel. As a result, the chances that the effort to strengthen the PA will lead to a change for the better in its policy are slim.

What Should Israel Do?

So what should Israel do? First, it must continue to intensify its efforts to thwart terrorism as part of Operation “Break the Wave” and through increased military deployment in Jerusalem and at recognized friction points. This is in parallel with the continued buildup of readiness for another campaign against the terrorist organizations in Gaza, which will lead to a significant blow to Hamas’ ability to threaten Israel.

The idea that refraining from action will stop the cycle of terrorism ignores the fact that the motivation for carrying out attacks is not due to the activities of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) on the ground, but is rooted in much deeper motives derived from the Palestinian narrative described above.

Second, Israel must try to continue to develop relations with Arab countries according to the model of the Abraham Accords because this is the best way to illustrate to the Palestinians that their concept of the struggle against Israel is archaic and futile. In the first stage, recognition of this reality may increase Palestinian frustration and encourage terrorist attacks, but over time, recognizing the futility of the attacks and the denial of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is essential to Palestinian introspection that may promote other views.

Third, Israel must strengthen those in the Palestinian system who are willing to prioritize improving the quality of life over commitment to the struggle and work directly with them and not through the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Raising the number of work permits in Israel for Palestinians and allowing Palestinians to fly from Ramon Airport are positive examples of this type of action.

Fourth, Israel must continue to demand that the Palestinians stop incitement and salary payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and make it clear that a solution to the conflict is contingent on the acceptance of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Above all, we must understand that the struggle is still long and we must be prepared for its continuation militarily, politically, and mentally, and not get caught up in the fallacies and false visions that threaten to undermine the consciousness required for this struggle.

* This article originally appeared in Hebrew on the N12 website (Israel TV Channel 12) on September 30, 2022.