The Palestinians Reject Having Their Own State — as Well as Peace
Anti-Israel activism on American college campuses has never been more widespread — and much of it comes in the form of publications in campus media.
Last spring, for example, the Harvard Crimson endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, and earlier this month, the editorial board of the University of Connecticut’s paper wrote, falsely, that since 1948, “Israel has maintained a program of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and settler-colonialism of Palestinians.”
In response to such slanders, Jewish students frequently assert that, “Israel has offered the Palestinians peace numerous times.”
I’ve heard this argument more times than I can count over the years, but there are two problems with it. Not only is it unresponsive to the claims made by anti-Israel activists, but it’s not even fully accurate.
When speaking about the conflict, Palestinian leaders, the myriad of NGOs that uncritically support them, and the Westerners who rally to their cause, rarely claim that what the Palestinians want from Israel is peace.
What they say they want, and what others say the Palestinians need, is “liberation” and a state of their own.
The Crimson editorial board, for example, claims to support a “free Palestine.” The BDS movement that the Crimson endorsed, on its website, describes itself, not as a “peace movement,” but as a movement for “freedom, justice, and equality.” And the UConn editorial board writes of a “discriminatory system of apartheid… which denies Palestinians their full rights to suffrage…”
And in fact, it’s a state — in addition to peace — that Israel has repeatedly offered.
Israel offered the Palestinians a state in 2000, and again in 2008. The UN Partition Plan, had it been accepted by the Palestinians, would have created a state for them. The 2014 negotiations facilitated by Secretary of State John Kerry, also could have led to a state for the Palestinians.
It is the offer of statehood and independence, along with peace, that Palestinians have rejected repeatedly.
Furthermore, it is not even incumbent on Israel to offer peace — even though it frequently has. Israel is not the aggressive party in the conflict. Hamas instigated conflicts in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021, and the Palestinian Authority incites terror attacks and intifadas through countless means, including by paying salaries to the terrorists and their families.
It was Egypt that provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and multiple invading Arab armies that began the war in 1948. Still, as the Abraham Accords demonstrate, Israel will extend its hand in peace to any of its neighbors that offer it.
Peace is what Israel wants – and Israel has demonstrated its willingness to grant the Palestinians statehood in exchange for peace, to no avail. As proof of concept, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip in 2005, and, in return, has only gotten war and violence in response.
Those who repeat that “Israel has offered peace” ignore the popular rallying cry, “no justice, no peace.” Naïve Westerners believe that Palestinians are justified in rejecting peace, because they are so often unaware that “justice” has in fact been on offer multiple times. Israel’s supporters need to make clear that Palestinians have been offered a path to liberation, but that their own leaders refused to go down that path.
When asked why Yasser Arafat turned down the 2000 Camp David offer of statehood, former US Ambassador and Camp David negotiator Dennis Ross said, “because fundamentally I do not believe he can end the conflict. We had one critical clause in this agreement, and that clause was, this is the end of the conflict.”
Palestinian leaders do not want to end the conflict and, therefore, have rejected all such offers. Moreover, their demands for independence include terms, such as the “right of return” that would destroy Israel, which are nothing more than poison pills that make any agreement impossible.
This leads to the conclusion that Palestinian leaders do not really want peace — and, despite their claims, they don’t really want statehood either.
Those who press Israel’s case to the public must stop asserting that “Israel has offered peace,” and correctly explain that Israel has offered statehood, independence, and the opportunity for the Palestinians to chart their own destiny multiple times. Yet Palestinian leaders have repeatedly turned those offers down, because they would have to give peace in exchange.
Karen Bekker is the Assistant Director of CAMERA’s Media Response Team.