Projecting Western Logic Onto Palestinians

A respose to Tom Friedman.

Tom Friedman is a star columnist at the New York Times with a big ego to boot.  Last week in a piece titled Hamas, Netanyahu, and Mother Nature, he displayed his biased views on Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel.  Friedman blames the Israeli government for doing nothing to advance peace, a charge that is totally misplaced.  Every Israeli government since the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn in 1993, has attempted to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.  Prime Minister Ehud Barak made far reaching concessions at Camp David in July, 2000.

Noted historian Benny Morris wrote in The New York Review of Books (June 21, 2002) that Israel proposed “the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on some 92 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with some territorial compensation for the Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory; the dismantling of most of the settlements and the concentration of the bulk of the settlers inside the 8 percent of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel; the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, in which some Arab neighborhoods would become sovereign Palestinian territory and others would enjoy “functional autonomy”; Palestinian sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem (the Muslim and Christian quarters) and “custodianship,” though not sovereignty, over the Temple Mount; a return of refugees to the prospective Palestinian state though with no “right of return” to Israel proper; and the organization by the international community of a massive aid program to facilitate the refugees’ rehabilitation.”

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat refused the offer.  Morris writes that U.S. President Bill Clinton was “enraged.” He banged on the table and said: “You are leading your people and the region to a catastrophe.” Clearly, Arafat would not concede to “ending the conflict” with Israel because he feared being assassinated by his people.

In 2008, PM Ehud Olmert went even farther than Barak. According to the Jerusalem Post (May 24, 2013), he proposed to “forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of a peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel. The advisors and Fatah officials heard from Abbas that Olmert laid out for him not only the details of the agreement, but also a large map upon which he outlined the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Mahmoud Abbas, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, wrote on the left hand side of the sketched map, what turned out to be the incorrect figures that he remembered, 5.5% and 6.8% representing the amount of land to be swapped. On the other side of the piece of paper he wrote the other details of the offer: a secure corridor between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank by way of a tunnel, the five nation committee to oversee the holy sites of Jerusalem, Israeli evacuation from the Jordan valley and the absorption of around 5,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel, 1000 every year for five years. Much like his predecessor Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t agree to “end the conflict.” He too feared assassination.  Like Arafat, he shares the notion of replacing the Jewish state with an Arab-Palestinian state over all of Palestine. 

PM Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew 8,500 Israelis from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, and pulled out the army as well. The territory was handed over in its entirety to the Palestinian Authority. When Israel withdrew from the territory and it left behind “ready-made” greenhouses with flowers to export, with the opportunity to boost the Strip’s economy, the Palestinians in Gaza turned it into a staging ground to attack Israel, especially after they elected Hamas to rule them in 2007.

Friedman wrote: “It’s because Netanyahu, like Hamas, also wants it all. And with President Trump and the U.S. Congress writing him blank checks, Bibi thinks he can have it all. So why bother making any concessions for peace?”

PM Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected Prime Minister in 2009.  He previously served as PM from 1996-1999.  He has since been re-elected in 2013 and again in 2015.  The Israeli public, disillusioned with the prospects of peace with the Palestinians following Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and Palestinian rejection of far reaching concessions by Barak and Olmert, voted for peace negotiations without pre-conditions.

Israeli Daily Yediot Ahronot (the paper is unsympathetic to Netanyahu) revealed in its June 3, 2015 issue PM Netanyahu’s secret offer to the Palestinians through his confidant lawyer, Yitzhak Molcho.  According to the Yediot, the objective of the agreement being “two-states for two peoples,” and an effort to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  On borders; the Netanyahu proposal was “secure and recognized borders between Israel and Palestine based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, taking into account subsequent developments.” On Jerusalem; “solution to the issue of Jerusalem must correspond with the deep historic, religious, cultural, and emotional ties both peoples have to the city, and protect the holy places.” On settlements; “Jewish Israelis who wish to remain in place in the State of Palestine would live under Palestinian jurisdiction, with full equal rights, and no individual or communal discrimination.” The Palestinian refugees “will receive a just, fair, and realistic solution consistent with the shared goal of two-states for two people.” The U.S. brokered these proposals that once again were rejected by the Palestinians.

Friedman’s demographic projections and his reference to “mother nature” are irrelevant and misleading.  His figures of 6.5 million Palestinians includes Israeli-Arabs. He paints a nightmarish scenario for the 6.5 million Jews in Israel becoming a minority due to overwhelming Palestinian fertility.  In the meantime, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) figures show that the fertility rate for Palestinians in 2016 was 30.9 per thousand, and in 2020 is projected to decline to 29.0 per thousand.  A few decades ago it stood over 50 births per thousand.  The decline in fertility on the Palestinian side is in sharp contrast to the rise of Jewish fertility rates.  According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, average Jewish-Israeli births per women was 3.16 in 2016. Thus, the fertility of Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Palestinian women is about to reach parity.

Friedman writes, “What if all two million Palestinians of Gaza marched to the Israeli border fence with an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other, saying, “Two states for two peoples”: We, the Palestinian people of Gaza, want to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish people — a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments.” 

In his fantasy scenario, Friedman has overlooked the fact that Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel.  The Hamas charter reads: “Our struggle against the Jews…Article Six: The Islamic Resistance Movement…whose allegiance is to Allah.  It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Article Thirteen reads: “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.  There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.  Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

Friedman has failed to grasp that his western logic does not apply to Palestinians. For them, there is no compromise - only the right of return to Israel, and the destruction of the Jewish state.