In the last two weeks, a few events happened that impact the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. Most recently Shimon Peres — an Israeli legendary leader, twice prime minister, president and one of the architects of the Oslo peace agreements — passed away.
One day before the announcement of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), I had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Peres in his office in Jerusalem, along with a U.S congressional delegation.
At that time, the Israeli press had already published a rumor according to which there could be a sort of understanding between the PLO — long considered to be a terrorist organization — and Israel.
Knowing the traditional Israeli trick of leaking information to the press to test public opinion, I had the feeling that these rumors were a prelude to something.
It was at Peres’ office that I whispered in the ear of my then Congressman, the late Bob Franks, R-N.J., that something big was about to happen.
I urged Congressman Franks to ask Mr. Peres to confirm or deny the rumors published in the Israeli press. Franks indeed asked that question. Peres was evasive. He neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.
Peres looked tired but smiling. We could sense a spirit of optimism lightened his face.
After leaving Peres' office, we went to visit a group of Palestinian leaders, whose names were not publicly known. They also had an unusually conciliatory tone, abstaining from saying anything negative about Israel.
Yes, at one point there was optimism on both sides.
Peres envisioned a two-state solution negotiated though territorial compromises.
Peres also dreamed about the new Mideast where peace would give pave the way for regional integration. That would bring about trade relations and economic and technological cooperation that would make the Mideast into a powerhouse.
Thus, the bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians were complemented with multilateral talks with Arab countries. The idea was to create the environment that would guarantee peace and cooperation. However, Peres’ eternal optimism and wishful thinking failed to take into account the mindset of some Arab leaders.
Egypt pulled out of the multi-lateral negotiations less than two years after they had begun.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was afraid that regional integration would make Israel into the hegemonic power in the Arab world. The Arabs showed feared of peace and rejected Peres’ well-intended utopia of a new Mideast.
Furthermore, as the late Lebanese-American scholar Fouad Ajami has pointed out, many Arab leaders welcomed the election of Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term in 1996. They saw an opportunity to distance themselves from the Israelis and return to the old formula of bashing Israel (Jordan being the exception).
Subsequently, the Palestinians also rejected several peace offers that included far-reaching concessions including the creation of a Palestinian state and the division of Jerusalem. The Palestinians wanted to flood Israel with 3 million Palestinians, a situation that would have destroyed Israel’s Jewish character and lead to a civil war.
The leader of the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, attended Mr. Peres’ funeral, shedding meaningless tears. A few days before Peres’ death Abbas spoke at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA).
In that speech Mr. Abbas, after paying lip service to peace, he invoked the UNGA Resolution 194 — a non-binding resolution adopted in December 1948 — that calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes.
By the same token, Abbas condemned the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917, in which the British government pledged to provide a Jewish national home in Palestine.
That declaration was made legitimately and legally valid by the by the League of Nations, an international body formed after World War I, and composed by 52 nations.
Furthermore, the League of Nations simultaneously gave legal force to the mandates that created most contemporary Arab states.
Abbas also once gain referred to the 1948 war as a catastrophe while ignoring the fact that Palestinians and Arabs launched that war against Israel and killed one percent of its population.
Shimon Peres' dream remains just a dream. Twenty-three years after Oslo, Palestinians have remained where they were 70 years ago.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Florida Atlantic University Honors College and FAU Lifelong Learning Society. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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