The Long Road To Reconciliation

With the failure of yet another U.S. effort to broker a permanent, durable peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, the Obama Administration must accept that a deal is not achievable under current conditions. The U.S. leadership must temper its expectations, embrace the long game, and lay the groundwork for a future deal. The best investment of U.S. effort today is bringing an end to incitement and indoctrination; not merely because Israel is entitled to such support by treaty and binding agreement, but because ending incitement and effecting fundamental change in Palestinian Arab culture is the only road to a real and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo process agreements explicitly require the Palestinian side to prevent incitement and reflect the need to reform Palestinian society as a predicate to make peaceful coexistence possible. The 1995 Oslo II Agreement reaffirms the parties’ “mutual commitment to act . . . immediately, efficiently and effectively against acts or threats of terrorism, violence or incitement.” Oslo II also provides that the parties shall “abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda” and “take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction.” Finally, Oslo II requires the parties to “ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace” and “will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.”

The January 15, 1997 “Note For The Record” that became part of the January 17, 1997, Hebron Protocol repeats the Palestinian obligation to normalize Israel in Palestinian society. The Note For The Record provides that the “Palestinian side reaffirms its commitments to . . . [p]reventing incitement and hostile propaganda.”

The Note For The Record also reaffirmed the Palestinian commitment to “[c]omplete the process of revising the Palestinian National Charter.” Among its many provisions inconsistent with a lasting peace with Israel, the 1968 Palestinian National Charter calls for armed struggle (terrorism) against Israel, declares Israel “null and void” and denies Jewish historical ties to Israel.[1]

The 1998 Wye River Memorandum expands on Oslo II and the Note For The Record. Wye requires the Palestinians to “issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence or terror” and act “systematically against all expressions or threats of violence or terror.” Wye again calls for “nullification” of those provisions of the PLO’s charter “inconsistent” with the peace process.

Finally, the September, 1999, Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum provides that “[e]ach side shall immediately and effectively respond to the occurrence or anticipated occurrence of . . . incitement and shall take all necessary measures to prevent such an occurrence.”

Nevertheless, incitement to hatred, anti-Semitism, and indoctrination against normalization and reconciliation with Israel is endemic in Palestinian society. On the very night that Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords in September, 1993, Arafat appeared on Jordanian television and reaffirmed his Plan of Phases. The Plan of Phases adopted in 1974 calls for the PLO to acquire whatever territory possible through negotiations and to use that land as a base of operations for destroying Israel. Arafat and his successors have since repeated their commitment to the Plan of Phases freely. In January, 2014, Abbas Zaki, a senior PA official and confidante of current PA President Mahmoud Abbas, repeated the Plan of Phases in an interview with Syrian state TV.

In accord with the stated goal of destroying Israel and despite their Oslo obligations, Arafat, Abbas, and Hamas’s leaders since taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007, have comprehensively indoctrinated Palestinian society against any peace with Israel. Textbooks in Palestinian schools operated by the UN’s United Nations Relief and Works Administration, delegitimize and demonize Israel, call for armed struggle, deny Jewish historical connections to Israel, speak of cities within Israel’s 1948 borders as Palestinian and generally fail to acknowledge Israel’s existence at all. Palestinian schools glorify Hitler on Facebook and in publications.

Textbooks used in the Gaza Strip teach that the Torah and Talmud are “fabricated.” Many textbooks quote religious tracts calling for Muslims to fight and kill “the Jews” and likening killing Jews to worship. Hamas recently castigated UNRWA for teaching human rights because human rights are “offensive” to Palestinian culture. Hamas’s Education Minister complained that human rights education would “domesticate the psyche of the Palestinian pupil, fostering negative feelings toward armed resistance.”

The Palestinian political leadership’s public statements are likewise violently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. In December, 2013, when Israel released twenty-six prisoners convicted of violent crimes (murder or terrorist attacks), the killers were welcomed in Gaza and the West Bank as heroes, including by Mahmoud Abbas himself. In March, 2011, Ramallah renamed a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in a 1978 terrorist attack that killed 37 Israelis, including 13 children. In March, 2014, an Abbas adviser went on PA-run TV to honor and praise Mughrabi on the anniversary of her terrorist attack. When one of the conspirators behind the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972 died in 2010, Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended the funeral, which included a PA military honor guard. In February, 2014, PA TV celebrated the anniversary of a “heroic operation” in which a suicide bomber killed eight people on an Israeli bus. In March, 2014, an Abbas confidant and senior PA official told PA TV, “I believe that Allah will gather [the Jews] so we can kill them.”

The Palestinian religious leadership condition Palestinian society against peace by falsely denying any Jewish historical ties to Israel. The Western Wall is so named because it is the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, location of the Judaism’s two great temples of antiquity, and now Judaism’s holiest site. The al-Aqsa mosque was built on the temple mount circa 700 C.E., around 650 years after the destruction of Judaism’s second great temple and some 1,700 years after construction of the first great temple in the same location. In 2014, the PA’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud al-Habbash, and the former Chief Justice of the PA’s Religious Court both said that Jews [not Israelis, but Jews] have no right to the Western Wall and “no one besides Muslims will pray in it.” In November, 2013, al-Habbash gave a sermon accusing the Jews of poisoning Muhammad.

In each category discussed above, these are but a few examples of an avalanche of propaganda. And this incitement has been ongoing, festering, for more than a century. In 1929, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, spread the false rumor the Jews were plotting to take over the al-Aqsa Mosque, and Muslims murdered 133 Jews in the ensuring riots. On March 26, 2014, the PA’s chief religious authority, Mufti Muhammad Hussein, took to PA TV and broadcast, again, that the Jews pose a “threat of destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” This slander – meant solely to incite hate, fear and violence – has been repeated hundreds and thousands of times.

The inevitable result of comprehensive indoctrination in Palestinian schools, mosques and political discourse is a society steeped in hatred and unprepared to accept Israel as a neighbor. A 2010 Pew Research Center poll found 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza view Jews unfavorably.

Undoing this deep-seeded enmity underlay the anti-incitement provisions in the Oslo agreements in the first instance. Yet neither the U.S. nor its international partners have done anything to either enforce the Palestinians’ commitments, or to promote societal change on their own accord and in favor of accepting Israel’s permanence, legitimacy and inviolability. To the contrary, Israeli complaints and concerns about incitement and hate indoctrination are routinely disregarded, and oft as not Israel itself is accused of being a barrier to peace when pointing out Palestinian violations.

Instead of beginning the long, arduous task of de-conditioning Palestinian society, for two decades, U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of State, envoys, special representatives, mediators, negotiators and facilitators have pursued a chimerical stroke-of-the-pen Final Agreement and a place in the history books. The September, 1999, Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, calls for negotiations in an “accelerated manner” and repeatedly requires a “determined effort” before providing the parties “will achieve” a comprehensive resolution “within one year.” One year on would put the Final Agreement two months before the 2000 election and would put President Clinton in the history books two months before his successor was elected. President Obama and Secretaries Clinton and Kerry have likewise wasted time, political capital and credibility in their own pursuits of immortality, declaring meaningless, arbitrary deadlines for a Final Agreement.

It is time to finally give up this illusion that a final agreement is in the offing, and begin laying the groundwork today for an enduring peace to be concluded sometime in the future. Despite 20 years’ obligations to stop, the PA still actively prevents Palestinian society from acclimating to peace,[2] and the U.S. and the international community should use their enormous leverage to force the PA to end incitement and indoctrination.

There is no Final Agreement in sight. There is no shortcut, no road map, no trick, bribe or inducement to bring peace now. Instead, the U.S. must renounce the dream of a history-making, moment-in-time deal and embrace the hard slog of enforcing Palestinian obligations and reconciling the Palestinian people to the reality the Israel is here to stay.


[1] Available at

[2] As long as Hamas controls Gaza, there is no prospect whatsoever for peace.

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