Bahrain Conference and the Big Omission
writing about the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative seem to have
amnesia. Curiously, the press and pundits pontificating about the Bahrain
Conference have largely omitted the history of earlier failed proposals. Perhaps
this is because those failures raise uncomfortable truths.
June 25, the Trump administration presented part of its plan for an
Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The long-awaited proposal, formally
unveiled at a conference in Bahrain, envisions $50 billion in regional
investment projects over a period of ten years.
“From Peace to Prosperity,” the plan
seeks to encourage Palestinian economic growth by opening up the West Bank
(Judea and Samaria), which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) — and
the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Fatah rival Hamas — to development. The
proposal emphasizes regional integration, private sector growth, and
improvements to healthcare, infrastructure, and education as means of improving
the quality of life for Palestinians.
Fatah, the movement that controls the PA, and the terror group Hamas have
rejected the plan. In fact, both groups opposed the plan long before its
details were announced, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting
in America (CAMERA) highlighted
officials boycotted the Bahrain Conference, although some Palestinian
businessmen and officials from several Arab countries did participate. Many in
the press, however, chose to focus on the boycotters, while minimizing the
Los Angeles Times, Foreign
Policy Magazine, and others reported on the PA’s refusal to
participate, but failed to note that it was in keeping with a long history of
Palestinians rejecting opportunities for peace.
recent years, the PA has refused US and Israeli offers for a Palestinian state
in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba, and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference.
former AP reporter Mark Lavie detailed
in Tablet Magazine:
September 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas a map, a proposal that would give the Palestinians 93.7 percent of
the West Bank, with Israeli territory to make up 5.8 percent, and a corridor to
Gaza from the West Bank for the other 0.5 percent. Olmert insisted that Abbas
initial the map before taking it. It was clear that this was Israel’s final
offer. Abbas rejected it.
PA refused to even make a counteroffer to Olmert’s plan — just
as they did when Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was presented with the
2000 and 2001 proposals.
and 2016, the Obama administration sought to present plans for restarting
negotiations, with the 2008 offer as a starting point. But yet again, the PA refused
to sit down and engage in bilateral negotiations with the Israeli government —
despite the fact that the Oslo Accords stipulate they must do so.
the PA has insisted on paying salaries to terrorist murderers and their families
— even when threatened with aid
cuts by the US and others.
this trend is not recent.
leaders have refused opportunities for statehood going back to the 1930s:
rejecting the recommendations of the 1937 Peel
Commission Report, the 1947 Partition Plan, as well as efforts
following the 1967 Six-Day War and the Camp David Agreement with Egypt,
most major US news outlets omitted this important history and context. The
Washington Post, for example, failed — in no fewer than five reports and
thousands of words on the Bahrain Conference — to mention a single one of
these recent rejections. One commentary masquerading as “analysis” by The
Post’s WorldView columnist, Ishaan Tharoor, was particularly noteworthy.
argued that the US economic plan made “no mention of Palestinian statehood or
ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.” But Tharoor himself
declined to mention that Palestinian leaders have, on a number of occasions,
rejected precisely that. Instead, Tharoor asserted that Israeli and US officials
don’t seem “interested in the creation of a Palestinian state.” History
history is similarly ignored by another Post columnist, Max Boot, who
claimed that Kushner, who like Trump comes from a real estate background, tends
to look at problems “through the lens of a developer.” Kushner, Boot writes,
has “replaced realpolitik with realestatepolitik.” Yet, arguably the
opposite has occurred.
noted above, the US and the Israelis, like the British before them, have
previously advocated for a “land for peace” solution to the conflict. But
evidence suggests that this real estate approach has failed.
the 1990s Oslo process, Israel ceded land in much of the West Bank and Gaza —
only to be rewarded with suicide bombings, blown up buses, and mass murder.
Prior to Oslo, Fatah was in economic dire straits thanks to the demise of its
Soviet patron, and its top officials were largely residing in Tunis.
and the US gave them a lifeline. But as CAMERA’s Steve Stotsky has documented,
Palestinian terrorist attacks actually increased after the Oslo Accords,
which created the PA and provided the opportunity — for the first time in
history — for limited self-rule by the Palestinians. As
his own wife admitted, Arafat, two-faced as always, even planned the Second
Intifada while he was negotiating with Israeli and US officials at Camp David.
was in that intifada’s wake that Israel decided to pull out of Gaza and give
the Palestinians an opportunity for statehood in the Strip. This effort was also
rewarded with terror, violence, and murder. Instead of building a state, Hamas
immediately set to work building terror tunnels and launching rockets at
civilians in the Jewish state. In the nearly 15 years since Israel’s 2005
withdrawal, Hamas’ actions have precipitated no fewer than three wars.
suggests that “land for peace” brings little peace when the Jewish state’s
opponents can’t even be brought to acknowledge its right to exist.
some Arab officials who decided to attend the Bahrain Conference did what the
Palestinian leadership has been unable to. As Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh
Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid: “Israel is a country in the Middle East.
Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region historically. So the Jewish
people have a place amongst us.”
Khalifa was acknowledging the past while looking towards the future. The pundits
writing about future Israeli-Palestinian peace endeavors should do the same.
writer is a senior research analyst for the Washington, DC, office of CAMERA,
the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting