Do Peace Negotiations Prevent Terror?
by Adam Levick
Any informed discussion on the correlation between terrorism and Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations should emphasize the following dates: July 2000, September 2000, and January 2001.
In late July 2000, Yasser Arafat turned down a peace offer by Ehud Barak that would have created, for the first time in history, a sovereign Palestinian state.
In late September 2000, Palestinians launched what became known as the Second Intifada, a five-year campaign of sadistic violence that killed more than 1,000 Israelis, mostly civilians, and maimed thousands more.
In January 2001, Ehud Barak, despite the outbreak of terror several months earlier, continued to participate in the US-led talks, only to see his more generous peace offer again turned down by Arafat.
So, what’s the take-away from this timeline, which shows that a monstrous campaign of Palestinian violence was bookended by sincere Israeli overtures for peace?
At the very least, it should serve as an important illustration of why there’s little if any evidence that Palestinians “resort” to terror when there’s no hope for peace and two states. Otherwise, why did the Second Intifada begin during a period when the chances that a Palestinian state was going to be created was at its pinnacle?
Predictably, recent articles in British media outlets about the recent surge in Palestinian terror didn’t pause to even briefly meditate upon this vexing, narrative-contradicting question.
A Telegraph editorial (“Mid-East On Knife’s Edge”, Jan. 30) focused on fears of increased violence and instability in the region after a Palestinian terrorist murdered seven Israeli civilians on Friday, before adding, “The absence of any moves towards a political settlement of the age-old dispute is encouraging young Palestinians to listen to those fomenting trouble.“
In The Times, Anshel Pfeffer (“Does deadly week in Israel raise prospect of Third Intifada?”, Jan. 29) concluded his piece by asserting that “a new Palestinian generation has grown without hope. They have little to lose from launching a new [Intifada].” [emphasis added]
And, in an analysis in November on the increased violence, Financial Times Jerusalem correspondent James Shotter (“Upsurge in violence heightens anxiety over stability of West Bank”, Nov. 23) explained the rise of the Lion Den’s terror group thusly:
Officials in Nablus said other broader factors were also at play: anger at Israel’s 55-year occupation, and the coming of age of a generation too young to remember the 1990s Oslo Accords, which briefly raised hopes of a resolution to the conflict and an independent Palestinian state. [emphasis added]
The implication of Shotter’s take is that during times when there is hope of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the Palestinian appetite for terror will wane — a correlation that is wish-casting at best, and one, as we showed regarding the Second Intifada, that is not supported by the events of the late 90s and early to mid 2000s.
The generation that participated in the terror of the 2000s was the Oslo generation — those who not only saw their leader shake hands with Yitzhak Rabin, but experienced the fruits of negotiations in the form of IDF withdrawals from large swaths of the West Bank, and Palestinian Authority control of major Palestinian population centers. Those Palestinians of course also saw Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, a unilateral concession that resulted in the rise of Hamas, an Islamist extremist group committed to Israel’s annihilation.
None of this is to suggest that peace negotiations between the two sides aren’t extremely important. It’s meant to emphasize the absolute folly — given the last 30 years of Israeli-Palestinian history — of concluding that despair over the absence of a diplomatic horizon is what drives otherwise normal people to murder innocent men, women, and children at restaurants, bus stops, and even outside Jewish houses of worship.
Adam Levick serves as co-editor of CAMERA UK — an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appeared.