Sorry Bill, Itís Not Up to
By Jonathan S. Tobin
November 1, 2015
He should have known better. Bill
Clinton spent the years after he left the White House loudly and bitterly
lamenting the fact that Yasir Arafat cost him a Nobel Peace Prize. Clinton
hosted a peace summit at Camp David in the summer of 2000 at which Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state including
almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza in exchange for
peace. Arafat said no and months later launched a terrorist war of attrition.
But in spite of this, Clinton
told a huge crowd in Tel Aviv last night that ďit is up to youĒ in
order to make peace in the Middle East. Clinton was an honored guest at a peace
rally/commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabinís murder.
President Obama also sent taped remarks along similar lines that were played at
It is all well and good to praise
the search for peace. It is quite another to tell them that it is up to them to
decide whether there will be peace. Because if there is anything that the last
22 years have taught us it is that it clearly not up to the Israeli people.
According to Clinton:
I always thought the role of the
United States was to provide whatever help necessary to ensure Israelís
security, maximize the benefits of peace and minimize the risks. But the
decision is yours.
The next step in the magnificent
story of IsraelÖ the next step will be determined by whether you decide that
Rabin was right, that you have to share your future with your neighbors, that
you have to stand for peace, that the risk for peace isnít as severe as the
risk of walking away from it. We are praying that you will make the right
Yet, as Clinton knows, Barak
repeated the offer the next year, and Ehud Olmert sweetened it in 2008. Both
times the Palestinians again refused. Then Benjamin Netanyahu offered
withdrawals from most of the West Bank and committed himself to a two-state
solution and still the answer was no. Before that, Ariel Sharon withdrew every
soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza hoping to create an opening for peace
and instead set the stage for the creation of an independent Palestinian state
in all but name there that is an Islamist terrorist dictatorship. Each time
Israel took the kind of risks for peace that its friends and critics had been
urging it to do yet got neither peace nor credit for the sacrifice.
To be fair to Clinton, thereís
little doubt that he cares about Israel and the Israeli people have always
appreciated his genuine affection and returned it. Thatís more than can be
said for Obama, who, at best, regards Israel with condescension, restricting his
praise for a mythical Israel of the past that didnít face the real countryís
terrible war and peace dilemmas.
But in spite of Clintonís
intimate knowledge of the peace process, he still clings to the notion that
somehow it is within the power of the Jewish state to force an end to a
century-long conflict with the Palestinians.
The signing of the Oslo accords on
the White House lawn was a high point of Clintonís presidency and sealed his
relationship with Rabin. Clintonís honoring a man who was tragically murdered
is entirely appropriate. But the problem here is the implicit assumption that it
was assassin Yigal Amirís bullet that killed the peace process or the Israelis
who peacefully demonstrated against their government for empowering terrorists
and not the third man in the famous picture with Clinton and Rabin: Arafat.
What more can Israel do to
convince the Palestinians to make peace than they have already done? According
to the Obama administration and leftist critics of the Netanyahu government,
they need to stop building homes in existing settlements in the West Bank and
40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or release more convicted terrorists. But
does anyone really think that will convince the Palestinians to make peace when
offers like the ones Barak and Olmert made were not enough? Did Sharonís
experiment in trading land for peace ó which turned out to be an exchange of
territory for terror ó not go far enough?
The problem isnít Israel not
recognizing Palestinians rights and aspirations. Even the supposed hard line
Netanyahu has done that. The problem is that even PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the
Palestinian lauded by President Obama as a moderate and a champion of peace.
wonít recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders
are drawn. Moreover, it is that same Abbas
who has been inciting terror fueled by religious hatred in recent
months by cynically circulating canards about mythic Israeli plans to destroy
mosques or proclaiming that he doesnít want ďfilthy Jewish feetĒ profaning
Nor is the building of homes in
places that even Clinton and Obama know would be part of Israel after a peace
agreement an obstacle to peace if the Palestinians ever choose peace rather than
a continuation of the conflict.
Itís not the Israelis who need
the lectures from Clinton and Obama. Itís the Palestinians. Like many in
Israel who have always wanted to believe their country could magically make
peace without the Palestinians having to change, thatís the line the U.S.
seems to buy too. But itís bunk, and if anyone should know it, itís the
president that still feels he was cheated out of a Nobel Prize by Palestinian
Clinton is right when he cites
Rabinís belief that the costs of ignoring chances for peace are high. But the
costs of a reckless pursuit of it are also high as the mounting toll of Israeli
victims of terror proves. Thousands have died in no small measure because of the
Oslo process that empowered terrorists like Hamas, Arafat and other killers
honored by Abbas.
Yet this mistaken emphasis on what
Israel can do is not a harmless gesture. The more international leaders, even
those that are correctly labeled as friendly to Israel like Clinton, mouth these
bromides, the less inclined the Palestinians will be to finally make peace. Such
lectures only reinforce their belief that sooner or later international opinion
will isolate Israel and bring them one step closer to their fantasy of its
destruction. They need to be reminded that throughout the century-long history
of the conflict they are the ones who have always rejected compromise. Oslo was
not a catastrophe because the intentions of Yitzhak Rabin or Bill Clinton were
bad but because the process they created provided no accountability for the
Palestinians. Far from making compromise an imperative, it convinced the
Palestinians that they didnít have to do anything to make peace. That not only
robs them of agency in their fate but also gives them reasons why they
shouldnít budge or cease cheering or subsidizing terror.
So far from advancing the cause of peace, speeches like Clintonís actually retard it. Of course, if Clinton were to go to Ramallah and tell the Palestinians that it was up to them to finally make peace, he would not be greeted with thunderous cheers, as was the case in Tel Aviv. But it would be an important wake-up call for a people that are still trapped in its own rhetoric of delegitimization. Israel has taken plenty of risks for peace. Itís time for Americans to stop ignoring that fact and start putting pressure on Israelís foes to take some risks of their own.