Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on June 14th was more than an exercise in judicious phraseology. It returned realism to Israeli foreign policy and set out a clear and precise diplomatic formula that reflects the worldview of the Israeli majority. In it, he set forth the principles upon which a lasting peace could be achieved, and in doing so, he exposed the essential intractability of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In his speech, while Netanyahu insisted that any future Palestinian state had to be demilitarized – that is, denied an army, denied the right to import weapons, denied control over its air space, and denied the capacity to enter into alliances with terrorist regimes like Iran – he knows from the historical record that demilitarization will be more honored in its breach than its acceptance. Given the failure of past agreements with the Palestinians from the Oslo Accords to the Camp-David Summit (July, 2000), the Gaza Disengagement Plan (August, 2005), and the Hamas takeover of Gaza (June, 2007), not to mention the over two hundred agreements that the PLO signed over the years (honoring none of them), there is little ground for believing that they would honor such an agreement in future any more than the Germans did after World War I.

Caroline Glick notes that “Palestinian society is already one of the most militarized societies in the world. According to the World Bank, 43% of wages paid by the Palestinian Authority go to Palestinian militias” so the likelihood of a demilitarized Palestinian state is virtually non-existent….all of which translates into the probability that the new Fatah-led, U.S.-trained Palestinian security force (currently being trained in Jordan for deployment in Judea and Samaria) will, at some point in the near future, use their newly acquired counter-terrorism tactics against Israel (1).

Further, neither the US, the UN nor the Europeans can be relied upon to enforce any such breach. Hezbollah was re-armed by the Syrians under the noses of the UN immediately after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and Syrian-assisted arms smuggling of Iranian weapons continues to flow into Hamas-controlled Gaza from Egypt despite the presence of EU observers. As a consequence, the unfortunate reality facing Netanyahu is that only Israel is in a position to enforce demilitarization and counter Palestinian terrorism as it did during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. While such action virtually guarantees international censure, at some point in time, Israeli martial law will have to be re-instituted, a thorough program of de-nazification undertaken and Palestinian society fundamentally re-organized.

He also laid out the basic principles upon which there could be no compromise – no “right of return” for Palestinian refugees (other than to their own state), Palestinian recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – a right the Palestinians demand for themselves, but deny to the Israelis – and no division of Jerusalem. In setting out these principles, he inferred that Israel’s right to exist does not derive from the tragedy of the Holocaust as suggested by President Obama in his address to the Muslim world – a fallacy that plays into the Arab fiction that Jews are white European colonialists with no historical ties to the Land – but from Jewish national and historical bonds stretching back 3,500 years on lands that represent the heartland of the Jewish people, the origins of the Bible and the Judeo-Christian civilization built on it. The people of Israel’s affiliation to the land did not begin – as the Palestinians are trying to claim – in the past 100 years, but when the Cave of the Patriarchs was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite for 400 silver shekels and Rachel’s Tomb was purchased for a full price in the Benjamin region. They are both still mentioned in the Torah in the Book of Genesis, and no one can take that away from the people of Israel. Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister of the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century, told detractors who heckled him as a Jew when he rose to speak in parliament: “My people were kings in Jerusalem while you were still scratching around in the fields for mushrooms.” He was right in saying so. The Jewish claim to the land, including Jerusalem, is so old, and so far predates Islam and even Christianity, that it’s extremely threatening to the Muslim world and elicits repeated denials of historical reality.

And despite Arab claims to the contrary, there were more than 450,000 Jews building a Jewish homeland prior to the Holocaust, in what would become the modern state of Israel. Buoyed up by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and inspired by Herzl’s Der Judenstat, Jews were at work in their ancient land making the desert bloom, draining the swamps, establishing kibbutzim, building new cities, universities and research centers, restoring their ancient language, establishing Hebrew-speaking schools, Hebrew newspapers, Hebrew theatre, agriculture, industry, a health care system and a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When the members of UNSCOP made their decision in 1947 to recommend the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, they were simply confirming what already existed. In fact, a case can be made that there has never been a Palestinian Arab state on that land at any point in history much less with Jerusalem as its capital. The name “Palestine” was coined by Rome only in 136 CE, and for nearly 2,000 years, Jews were the only Palestinians the world recognized. Despite the fact that Islam was established only in 610 CE, and the Arabs first arrived in Israel with the Muslim invasion in 637 CE, one can find synagogues from the Second Temple period, and long before that Pharaoh Merneptah noted the existence of Israelites in Canaan about 3,225 years ago.

Moreover, Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran. Even after the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the capital was Ramle never Jerusalem, yet as the holiest city in Judaism, it is mentioned more than six hundred times in the Hebrew Bible. In 1924 even the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published a booklet stating that the Temple Mount’s “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

Netanyahu also demanded that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state in the first instance, inferring that the Arab world must move beyond Dar al-Islam (the belief that all lands once ruled by Islam are considered Islamic Waqf (endowed) land, consecrated for Muslims, and must be re-conquered) and accept that the land now dominated by a Jewish-majority democratic state has been irrevocably lost, just as Andalusia – the Moorish Kingdom of Southern Spain – was irrevocably lost over five hundred years ago.

By insisting on prior recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, he challenged the Arab world to cross the psychological, political and religious barriers presented by Dar al-Islam – a challenge he is certain they are not prepared to meet due to pervasive anti-Semitism that is endemic throughout the Arab world. Netanyahu is more than aware that Arab hatred of Israel does not emanate from conflicting interests over land or water, poverty, envy, borders or settlements, but from religious edits that consider Judaism and Christianity invalid. Islam’s basic approach is not that it came into the world to co-exist with other religions, but to replace them. As Mordechai Kedar, writing for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, notes: “There is no escape from the conclusion that Israel’s struggle for survival is religiously based, even if externally it assumes the form of a territorial struggle. It does not matter what its size, Israel will never gain recognition by the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate state. Similarly, international documents which legitimize the “Jewish State,” such as United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, are viewed by Muslims as illegitimate.” Israel is viewed as part of a “Western cultural attack” against Muslim society so to recognize Israel is to blindly support what many see as a Western master-plan aimed at destroying Muslim and Arab identity. According to a survey in the Saudi magazine al-Majala published on April 4, 2007, 60% of Moroccans, 54% of Kuwaitis, 74% of Palestinians, 76% of Jordanians, and 74% of Algerians believe that the Arab world should not recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East, regardless of progress on the Palestinian front.

Under Shari’a, Jews are not only deemed inferior, but the descendants of pigs and monkeys. They must not be allowed to be equal to Muslims. For Muslim Arabs, Jews establishing their own state on what is seen as Islamic holy land is an abomination. Netanyahu’s demand, in effect, requires Islam to recognize Judaism as a legitimate religion on an equal basis with Islam even though the Koran itself states that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, will never be accepted” (Chapter 3, Verse 85). Bin Laden said as much in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when he declared – “Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalusia would be repeated in Palestine. We cannot accept that Palestine will become Jewish” and al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri said: “The Muslims will not accept two states on the land of Palestine. Palestine belongs to the Muslims. It was occupied by the infidels, and it is the duty of the Muslims to drive the invaders out of it. Israel is a crime that has to be eliminated.”

Nor is al Qaeda alone in this belief. The shaheed (martyr) is still the role model in the Palestinian media and education system. Fatah’s own Internal Order document retains “armed struggle” as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestine including Israel. Article 12 calls for “the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally,” and Article 19 states that “Armed revolution ….. will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.” Bat Ye’or, the Egyptian-born British scholar on Islam, acknowledged this in similar terms: “In 1974″, she writes, “Abu Iyad, second-in-command to Arafat in the Fatah hierarchy stated – ‘We intend to maintain this struggle so that our Palestinian homeland does not become a new Andalusia.’ The comparison of Andalusia to Palestine was not fortuitous since both countries were Arabized, and then de-Arabized by a pre-Arabic culture.” This also explains why, in more than a dozen areas across the globe, Muslims are waging war along the periphery of the Islamic world (Chechnya, Kashmir, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia) to convert more lands to Dar al-Islam.

Understanding this, Netanyahu recognizes that the Arab world is not prepared to forego Dar al-Islam nor accept a Jewish-majority state (democratic or otherwise) in the Middle East anytime soon.

The Palestinian reaction to his speech was predictable. The Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt denounced Netanyahu’s speech as “nothing but a hoax.” The PLO Executive Committee Secretary called Netanyahu a “liar and a crook” who is “looking for ploys to disrupt the peace endeavor.” A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that, “The speech has destroyed all peace initiatives and [chances for] a solution.” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, launched a scathing attack on Netanyahu, calling him a “swindler and liar”, and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saab Erakat, announced…..”In a thousand years, no Palestinian leader will accept this.” And these are the “moderates”.

The Arabs understand very well that if they are denied the demand to flood Israel with Muslim Arab refugees, denied Jerusalem as an Muslim Arab capital, and are forced to accept the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in a Jewish-majority state in their midst as Netanyahu demands, their master plan for the phased destruction of Israel would be at an end, and they would have no option other than to share the land with the Jews.

Netanyahu’s fundamental principles may do little to resolve the conflict or pacify the Arab world, the international media, or the diplomatic corps in Brussels or Washington, but at least he has set forth his parameters for future negotiations. Arab acceptance of the conditions he has outlined will not necessarily guarantee peace, but the absence of their acceptance guarantees future wars. Nations can compromise on many things, but never the terms of their existence.

ENDNOTE

  1. Aaron Klein, “American training will be utilized to kill Jews”, WorldNetDaily, October 2, 2009