Friday, March 31, 2023

Even before the final results of the latest Israeli general elections were announced, Palestinian leaders and officials were quoted as expressing deep concern and fear that the outcome of the vote would lead to increased tensions and violence between the Palestinians and Israel.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was quoted as saying that the results of the election “confirms that the Palestinians have no partner in Israel for peace.”

The Palestinians, who keep complaining about the rise of the right-wing parties in Israeli elections, are the ones who brought the terrorist Hamas group to power.

In 2006, a majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas, whose charter openly calls for the elimination of Israel. Since then, Hamas has carried out countless terror attacks, killing and injuring thousands of Israelis. The Palestinians who voted for a jihadist terror group would therefore seem to have little justification to complain about the outcome of any Israeli election.

After Israel’s 2021 election, Shtayyeh also remarked that the results showed there was little hope for peace. He said that the right-wing dominance in the election results indicated there could be no potential for talks with the Israeli side. Shtayyeh called on the international community to “stop Israeli attacks on Palestinian land, water and property.”

This was not the first time that the Palestinians had expressed dissatisfaction with, and concern over, the outcome of an Israeli election, especially when right-wing parties win a majority of the votes, and either form the government or become part of the ruling coalition.

The statements that Palestinian leaders and officials are making in response to the latest elections are identical to those they issued after previous rounds of voting in Israel.

After Israel’s 2021 election, PLO official Tayseer Khaled was quoted as saying that the results indicated that the Israeli public was leaning toward “fascism” and “extremism.” After the Nov. 1, 2022 election, Khaled published a similar statement in which he called on all Palestinians to “confront Israeli fascism.” He also warned that the rise of the right-wing parties in the election constituted a serious challenge to the Palestinians’ present and future because it could lead to “ethnic cleansing.”

After Israel’s 2020 election, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the results will not stop the Palestinians from pursuing the fight against Israel. He urged Palestinians to step up the “resistance” against Israel to thwart then U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, titled “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”

Commenting on Israel’s 2019 election, Hamas accused all of the Israeli parties of “inciting aggression on the Gaza Strip and the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

After Israel’s 2015 election, senior Hamas official Ahmed Bahr claimed that the rise of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power was a “declaration of war” on the Palestinians. Similar warnings were issued by another senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk.

It is hard to remember when the Palestinians were ever fully satisfied with the results of any election in Israel. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, any elected government in Israel that does not submit to 100 percent of their demands is a bad and dangerous government.

What are the Palestinian demands?

Israel is facing two Palestinian camps that each have their own demands. The first camp, represented by the Palestinian Authority, wants Israel to fully withdraw to the indefensible “borders” of pre-1967. This is in addition to the demand that Israel allow more than five million Palestinian “refugees” to flood the country as part of the so-called “right of return.” Such a move would mean the end of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, who would have to live as a minority in a new Arab state in the Middle East.

Under the current circumstances, an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines would result in the emergence of an Arab terror state run by Hamas and funded and armed by the mullahs of Iran.

The second camp, represented by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and several other armed groups, is seeking to replace Israel with an Islamist state. This camp does not believe in Israel’s right to exist and, like the first camp, has been carrying out terrorist attacks against Israelis for several decades.

The Palestinians, who have failed to hold general elections since 2006 due to the ongoing dispute between Hamas and the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, continue to engage in fear-mongering after each Israeli election, in efforts to intimidate the Israeli public into complying with their demands. They also have used this tactic for three decades to frighten the international community into pressuring Israel to make dangerous territorial concessions.

The Palestinian claim that there is no partner for peace in Israel is totally false. In fact, the opposite is true.

All of the peace offers made by Israeli leaders to the Palestinians over the past two decades have been rejected by the Palestinian leadership. In 2000, then PA President Yasser Arafat turned down the peace offer made by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit. Referring to Arafat, Barak was later quoted as saying: “He did not negotiate in good faith; indeed, he did not negotiate at all. He just kept saying no to every offer, never making any counter proposals of his own.”

Abbas, for his part, has admitted that he rejected a peace deal offered by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Olmert said that he had offered a near total withdrawal from the West Bank.

In 2020, the Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace plan as a “conspiracy.” The plan proposed a “two-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which envisages Israel and a future Palestinian state living alongside each other.

The Palestinians later rejected the Abraham Accords normalization agreements signed between Israel and four Arab countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—dubbing them a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people” and a “betrayal” of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The sad fact is that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side.

The 87-year-old Abbas is not a partner because he is too weak and unwilling to deliver; he correctly fears that, like the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, he would be murdered by his own people as a traitor. Public opinion polls have shown that Abbas is extremely unpopular, with more than 70 percent of the Palestinian public demanding his resignation.

Abbas is also aware that he does not have a mandate from his people to strike any peace deal with Israel. His rivals in Hamas, on the other hand, have repeatedly and consistently made it clear that they are categorically opposed to any peace agreement with Israel.

What is equally noteworthy is that the Palestinians keep stating that they see no difference between right-wing and left-wing parties in Israel. If that is so, why do the Palestinians always voice concern when the right-wing parties win elections?

The next time the Palestinians wring their hands about Israeli elections, the international community might remind them that it is Palestinian terrorism that drives the Israeli ballot box results.

The Palestinians additionally need to be reminded that it is their own leaders, and not those of Israel, who reject peace.

Rather than bemoaning the Israeli election results, Palestinian leaders should be granting their own people even a part of what the Israelis wish for them in the Abraham Accords: equal justice under the law, freedom to speak and publish without fear of retribution, freedom to become prosperous, and freedom to live lives that have opportunity apart from the cottage industry of terrorism—lives free from their own leaders’ corrupt, unending suppression.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

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