Back to Israeli-Palestinian
Negotiations? Some Basic Truths
By Alan Baker
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
November 14, 2017
Any genuine and serious
peace negotiating plan for Israel and the Palestinians should naturally be seen
as a welcome alternative to the present situation of impasse in the peace
process. However, the American peace plan should not be overestimated or
idealized by exaggerated media hype and political manipulation.
To succeed, there is the
necessity to correct many of the existing factors that are presently feeding an
atmosphere of hatred, distrust, and suspicion among the political leaderships
and general publics of the two sides.
First and foremost, the
ongoing Palestinian diplomatic offensive against Israel is incompatible with any
claim by the Palestinian leadership that it desires peace with Israel or that it
intends to return to any negotiating mode.
Mahmoud Abbas and the
Palestinian leadership repeatedly deny both the historic rights of the Jewish
people as well as the very right of Israel to exist. They cannot claim that they
are willing to negotiate and live in peace with Israel, while at the same time
openly denying the very right of Israel, the other party to any bona
fide negotiation, to exist.
They cannot pretend to be
open to reestablishing a neighborly relationship with Israel while, at the same
time, deliberately discouraging any existing efforts at normalization of
relations with Israelis. Their “denormalization” policy is anathema to any
idea of developing good neighborliness between the two peoples for their mutual
international BDS campaign aimed at harming and undermining Israel economically
and culturally through boycotts and social propaganda is a further example of
the very antithesis of any genuine intention to seek a peaceful mode of
If Abbas and the
Palestinian leadership genuinely intend to return to a negotiating mode with
Israel, they cannot continuously and systematically alienate the Israeli public
through incitement to terror and violence, false accusations, and hostile
propaganda in violation of their Oslo Accord commitments.
buzz and expectation in anticipation of the soon-to-materialize American plan1 for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians
obviously should not be underestimated. “We’re working very hard on it,”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said of the Middle East peace plan on
November 13, 2017.2
genuine and serious peace negotiating plan should naturally be seen as a welcome
alternative to the present situation of impasse in the peace process and the
evident incapability or lack of bona fide willingness to return to a negotiating
the American peace plan should not be overestimated or idealized by exaggerated
media hype and political manipulation.
cannot simply be naively parachuted into the Palestinian-Israeli reality without
due and proper preparation of the ground. Otherwise, it is doomed to failure. To
succeed, there is the necessity to correct many of the existing factors that are
presently feeding an atmosphere of hatred, distrust, and suspicion among the
political leaderships of the two sides, or more importantly, of mutual fear and
mistrust among the respective general publics.
prior to any attempt to impose upon or to proffer to the parties and the
international community any peace proposal, some “home truths” need to be
recognized and corrected to establish a genuine and serious negotiating
Truths that Are
and foremost, the ongoing Palestinian diplomatic offensive against Israel, both
locally and internationally, is incompatible with any putative claim by the
Palestinian leadership that it desires peace with Israel or that it intends to
return to any type of negotiating mode.
every statement by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas indicates rejection of
Israel and is replete with senseless repetitions of the worn-out clichés that
have no relation to reality.
denial of the 1917 Balfour Declaration and demand for a British apology,3 as absurd as it sounds, is nothing more than demagogy,
reeking of a much sadder and sinister message of denial both of the historic
rights of the Jewish people as well as of the very right of Israel to exist.
in his most recent November 2017 statement, commemorating the thirteenth
anniversary of the death of his mentor Yasser Arafat,4 Abbas repeated the old and worn-out canards accusing Israel
of being an apartheid state, of ethnic cleansing, and lamenting the impending
danger to the “two-state solution.” He insisted on Israel’s accepting the
Saudi Arab peace initiative, he demanded Israel’s withdrawal to the
non-existent “1967 borders” including from eastern Jerusalem, and he
repeated his oft-declared mantra objecting to the presence of any Israeli in the
and his advisers know that venting these threats, demands, and false
accusations, in addition to being unrealistic and obstructive, is incompatible
with any purported readiness to return to negotiations on peace with Israel.
Palestinian leadership knows that the central issues of borders, Jerusalem,
statehood, settlements, and others are among the agreed-upon subjects for the
negotiations on the permanent status of the territories. The Palestinians
themselves agreed to this. They cannot be dictated or prejudged.
there will ultimately be a one-, two-, or three-state solution – or whether
there will be an autonomous entity, a federation, confederation, condominium, or
co-emporium – is to be determined by agreement on the ultimate status of the
territory. It cannot be prejudged by Abbas, and by the same token, not by Barack
Obama, John Kerry, the European Union, the United Nations, or anyone else.
a future, agreed-upon border may be located between Israel and whatever
Palestinian entity will be agreed upon, it will certainly not be the 1949
Armistice Demarcation Line (the “1967 lines”), which the Palestinian
leadership is attempting, through repetition and indoctrination, to turn into an
international boundary. This was rejected by the UN Security Council in its 1967
Resolution 242 in favor of “secure and recognized boundaries.” Negotiations
on the border were agreed-to by the Palestinians themselves in the Oslo Accords.
But Abbas and his people are still trying to rewrite history and law by
dictating and prejudging the outcome of what is intended to be a central issue
in a bona fide negotiation.
same token, dictating the outcome of the Jerusalem issue before any negotiations
on it have taken place is gall, presumptuous, impudent as well as insulting to
those leaders who are signatories as witnesses to the Oslo Accords, in which the
Palestinians and Israelis agreed that “the issue of Jerusalem” is a final
status negotiating issue.
was not included in UN Security Council Resolution 242, and its omission was
deliberate, according to U.S. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, one of the
Israel has frequently suggested that the Saudi peace plan draft could serve as a
basis for discussion in negotiations, this does not necessarily mean that the
plan is a zero-sum proposal to be imposed by the Palestinian leadership and the
Leadership Going in the
Abbas, who is naively perceived by the West – especially the Europeans,
even the United States, and some Israeli politicians and media — as moderate,
sincere, and genuinely seeking peace, repeats that he and the Palestinian
leadership openly, officially, and formally deny the very premise and basis for
Israel’s right to exist. They insist on preconditions to any negotiation that
they know are unrealistic and unacceptable.
is nothing more than a poke in the eye for all those who continue to
blindly insist on seeing him as a serious partner for negotiation.
Palestinian leadership cannot claim internationally, on the one hand, that it is
willing to negotiate and live in peace with Israel, while at the same time
openly denying the very right of Israel, the other party to any bona
fide negotiation, to exist.
cannot pretend to be open to reestablishing a neighborly relationship with
Israel while, at the same time, deliberately discouraging any existing efforts
at normalization of relations with Israeli bodies and persons through
undermining joint projects and intimidation and threats to both Palestinians and
Israelis. Their “denormalization” policy is anathema to any idea of
developing good neighborliness between the two peoples for their mutual benefit.
attempts to manipulate and turn the International Criminal Court into their own
kangaroo tribunal for complaining against Israel and labeling Israeli leaders as
war criminals are legally flawed and incompatible with the court’s own
founding statute. These attempts are totally incompatible with any genuine
desire to get back to the negotiating table with those very same Israeli leaders
whom they seek to label as criminals.
extensive efforts to abuse one of the most serious and professional UN
specialized agencies dealing in education and culture, UNESCO, for one purpose
only – to undermine and falsely rewrite history by exorcizing any Jewish
connection to the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem – is a
further scandalous example of their utter abuse of the international community.
This exploitation has irreparably prejudiced any professional credibility that
UNESCO may have had. The organization has become irreparably compromised and
politicized by the Palestinians.
Human Rights Council, theoretically and ostensibly one of the most serious
organs of the UN intended to combat the most grievous human rights violations
throughout the world, has been completely compromised, lost any moral stature,
and become a body devoted almost exclusively to Israel-bashing.
joining the international police organization, INTERPOL, with the declared aim
of generating arrest warrants against Israelis, is the latest Palestinian ploy
to undermine a respected, professional organization for their narrow partisan
political purpose, without any compunction as to the professional credibility or
reputation of the organization.
The Role of the
Palestinian manipulation and abuse of the international institutions to further
a policy of delegitimization of Israel within the international community is not
compatible with any idea of returning to a peace-negotiating mode. By the same
token, the tendency of the international community to “coddle” the
Palestinians and to submit to their every initiative against Israel, and, out of
political correctness, to refrain from criticizing acts of terror and violence
against Israel, not only sends the wrong signal to the Palestinians, but is
perceived to be an expression of support.
international community shares the aim of a return to negotiations, it must
refrain from their habitual Israel-bashing resolutions, declarations, and
Palestinian-generated international BDS campaign aimed at harming and
undermining Israel economically and culturally through boycotts and social
propaganda is a further example of the very antithesis of any genuine intention
to seek a peaceful mode of co-existence. Its ultimate aim is the
delegitimization and isolation of Israel. The initiation and encouragement of
boycotts and sanctions, as well as the international concurrence with the BDS
campaign, are hostile actions that cannot co-exist with any bona fide
Abbas and the Palestinian leadership genuinely intend to return to a negotiating
mode with Israel, they cannot continue to undermine the legitimacy and integrity
of Israel and its leaders.
cannot continuously and systematically alienate the Israeli public through
incitement to terror and violence, false accusations, and hostile propaganda in
violation of their Oslo Accord commitments. Continued misuse of international
funding for payment of salaries to families of suicide bombers and convicted
terrorists is tantamount to incentivizing and rewarding terror. It cannot be
seen as compatible with bona fide peace negotiations.
cannot blatantly and openly violate their commitment pursuant to the Oslo
Accords to “resolve all outstanding issues relating to the permanent status
through negotiations” (Arafat letter to Rabin, September 9, 1993) by
attempting to bypass negotiations and to impose a settlement through the United
Nations and other organizations.
the Palestinian leadership needs to show a genuine will to get back together
with the Israelis and prove to the Israeli public that there exists a basis for
neighborly relations that could be mutually beneficial to both sides.
action would restore their international credibility and clout which they have
irreparably lost; it would restore the trust of the Israeli public in them and
place them in the position of a serious negotiating partner.
Modes of Conduct for
negotiators (left to right) Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador David Friedman, and
Jared Kushner with Prime Minister Netanyahu (U.S Embassy)
restore trust, Palestinian leaders need to commit themselves to certain basic
modes of conduct that will smooth the negotiating ambiance and restore some
modicum of good faith.
modes of conduct must include the following 10 principles:
The return to negotiations will be without imposition of, or demand
for, preconditions of any kind. Negotiations will be conducted continuously and
in a confidential manner at locations to be agreed upon.
The Palestinian negotiating team must be fully and openly empowered
to represent and to enter into solemn commitments vis-à-vis Israel on behalf of
The permanent status negotiating agenda remains as set out in the
1993-5 agreements between Israel and the PLO.
Both sides will refrain from public statements relating to the
negotiations and to the leadership and negotiators of the other side that may
prejudice the outcome of the negotiations.
Both sides will refrain from unilateral actions that might affect
the issues to be negotiated and agreed.
With a view to encouraging a positive negotiating ambiance between
the two sides and among their respective publics, and a restoration of mutual
trust, all petitions, complaints, and initiatives addressed by the Palestinian
leadership to international organizations, international and national tribunals
and courts, directed against Israel and its leadership will be revoked. The
Palestinians will act to revoke all UNESCO and other resolutions aimed at
falsifying and undermining Jewish history and the integrity and sanctity of
Jewish holy sites.
The Palestinians will actively cease and prevent all support,
encouragement, and other actions involving boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS),
whether in the economic, commercial, or cultural spheres, intended to prejudice
the rights, integrity, interests, and legitimacy of Israel and its public and
Pending the outcome of the negotiation and agreed-on determination
of their permanent status, the Palestinian side will suspend all requests to
join international organizations and to become party to international
conventions as well as all other international activities that are incompatible
with their obligations in the Oslo Accords.
All joint committees and related bodies established pursuant to the
agreements between the parties and aimed at furthering normal, good neighborly
relations will reconvene and resume their functions. The Palestinians will
formally revoke their denormalization policy.
The Palestinian side will act to prevent incitement, hostile
propaganda and acts of violence and terror against Israel. They will adapt their
education system and discourage anti-Semitism, whether in the media, or in
educational and religious institutions, by political, religious, and other
leaders, and will refrain from all such initiatives in the international
community. They will end their policy of encouraging and rewarding terror
through financially compensating families of deceased suicide bombers and
good faith and demonstrating genuine willingness to resolve all the negotiating
issues must be a sine qua non for any proposal to return to a
this, there would be no inclination among the Israeli general public to support
any governmental decision to enter into a renewed negotiation process.
U.S. officials putting together their “peace deal” should take this issue
very seriously if they have any hope of succeeding where others have failed.