Analysis: Palestinians are rejecting peace

By Robin Shepherd, November 25, 2010
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Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops near Nablus this week

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops near Nablus this week

Last week's comprehensive survey of Palestinian public opinion conducted on behalf of the left-leaning Israel Project makes for sober reading for anyone holding out hope that the Palestinians are genuinely interested in a lasting peace.

Most worrying of all were multiple findings showing that solid majorities among them have no intention whatsoever of living side by side with Israel in a long-term peace based on a two-state solution.

For example, 60 per cent of respondents supported the proposition that "The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state."

A full 66 per cent agreed with the similar proposition that, "Over time, Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state." Seventy one per cent said Yasser Arafat was right to have rejected the peace deal brokered in 2000 by former US President Bill Clinton (and accepted by Israel) which would have created a two-state solution, essentially based on the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem the capital of the new Palestinian state.

This all has profound ramifications for the way in which rational observers view the performance of the Netanyahu government in the current discussions about a peace deal. It is not hard, after all, to understand why many in Israeli politics might be reluctant to make concessions based on the prospect of a two-state solution, when the large majority of Palestinians plainly view it as a mere stepping stone on the way to Israel's ultimate destruction.

This does not mean that Israel has carte blanche to do whatever it likes, or that it should reject talks outright. But it does mean that we need to recognise how problematic the two-state proposition is for the Israeli government when the Palestinians are saying that, in the long term, this is not a "solution" they themselves will accept.

Optimists will argue that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas is more moderate than its people, and will persuade ordinary Palestinians to see sense once their state is eventually created.

But given the Palestinian Authority's continued rejection of Jewish historical claims in the Middle East - only this week the PA produced a report saying the Western Wall had no relation to Judaism and is in fact an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque - and its enduring policy of glorifying terrorists by naming streets and squares after them, that is one almighty leap of faith.

All of us want to believe that a lasting peace is possible. But ignoring the hard evidence about which of the two-sides is the real obstacle to such an outcome would not just be irrational. It would also represent a wholly unacceptable concession to the global campaign of anti-Israel delegitimisation.

Robin Shepherd is Director of International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society. He is the author of 'A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem with Israel'

Last updated: 2:01pm, November 25 2010