A few weeks ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally admitted something that those of us who get our news outside of the New York Times and AP have known for quite some time: that in 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from 99.5% of the West Bank, with land swaps accounting for about 6%, along with a historic compromise for sharing Jerusalem and compensation for refugees, and that Abbas rejected the offer.
While Abbas has never disputed that this occurred, he has now actually admitted it in an interview televised in Israel last week. The AP’s belated article about the interview ridiculously gave credence to Abbas’s explanation for his rejection — that he did not have sufficient time to study the map Olmert presented of the 2,000 square mile territory. AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief Josef Federman then offers this analysis:
Olmert’s peace vision was driven by the belief that Israel’s continued control of the Palestinians is leading the country to disaster. Without the establishment of a Palestinian state, the thinking goes, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank will reach such dimensions that separation will become impossible. The choice then will be annexing the land and creating a truly “binational” state, half its citizens Arabs, or becoming an apartheid-like entity where millions of Arabs do not have full rights.
This echoes similar sentiments articulated repeatedly by Secretary of State John Kerry as well as President Obama. In March of 2014, Obama told Jeff Goldberg,
I have not yet heard, however, a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.
Similarly, Secretary of State John Kerry told the AJC in June of 2013 that
We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.
Obama, Kerry, well-meaning journalists and advocacy groups all think that if they keep pushing Israel to just try harder, the problem can be resolved.
Incredibly, they fail to consider that there is even a possibility that it is Abbas that does not really want a negotiated, peaceful two-state solution. There is certainly evidence that he does not, and in light of Abbas’s admission about the 2008 offer, it certainly seems to be a possibility that must be considered. And, as long as everyone from the President of the United States to the AP keeps telling Abbas that if he does not agree to a two-state solution, Israel will somehow collapse, why in the world would he ever agree?
Despite the conventional wisdom among liberals that Israel is the stronger party in the conflict, the fact is that a negotiated two-state outcome can’t become reality without agreement from the Palestinian Authority and its President. If what Abbas really wants is a single Arab-majority state in what is now Israel, then every time John Kerry tells him that without a two-state solution Israel will cease to be a Jewish democracy, Kerry merely strengthens Abbas’s resolve to hold out for that result.
The absurdity of such pronouncements is that the people making them claim that they do so because they care so much about Israel, they don’t want Israel to fall victim to itself. All that they do, however, is encourage Palestinian rejectionism. Each time a governmental or non-governmental leader says that the window on the two-state solution is closing, they are telling Abbas that he made the right decision in 2008. They are telling him that he should continue his and his predecessor Arafat’s rejection of the two-state solution, because if he continues to hold out, eventually Israel will fall apart and he will have an Arab-majority state in all of Israel.
Why should Abbas settle for the West Bank (and maybe Gaza if he can wrest it away from Hamas) when he thinks that eventually he can get the whole thing?
Of course, Israel will never allow itself to become an Arab-majority state. The idea is preposterous to most of the left as well as the right, and for good reason. So the only thing that these journalists and politicians are doing each time they warn of the mythical, impending one-state solution, is encouraging the perpetuation of the lethal status quo.