King's Evangelical Divinity School

3 November 2011

Still Making Mistakes

A few days ago Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas conceded the Palestinians and Arab world had made a mistake by rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan, choosing to go to war instead. Israel, of course, won the war, expanding and consolidating its territory in the process. Had the original partition plan been accepted how different the Middle East might have looked today.

We could go just a little further back in history and explore earlier "mistakes", for example the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini's rejection of peaceful co-existence with Jews (despite many Arabs wishing to do so), his Arab-led rebellion against the Jews and British, his alliance with Hitler, and so on. Who knows? Today there might even have been a single state composed of Jews and Arabs.

But instead let's fast forward to the future and the Six Day War, when again various Arab states declared war on Israel and lost, which saw the West Bank and Sinai ceded to Israel. Then there's the 1973 Yom Kippur War (another unnecessary war also lost) which saw Israel advance into Syria within striking distance of Damascus itself. Another mistake was Yasser Arafat's focus on terrorist operations instead of talking peace with the Israelis, further weakening the Palestinian cause, or how how Hamas used the Gaza withdrawal to fire thousands of rockets into Israel (leading to yet another crippling war for the Palestinians). Abbas has conceded errors were made in 1947, but unfortunately - for the Palestinian people - their leaders have been making mistakes ever since.

Condoleezza Rice recently made public the nature of a proposed peace deal Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians in 2008. It's quite astounding, really: 94.2% of land plus other land swaps totalling 100% of the West Bank; dividing up Jerusalem, which would serve as a future capital of both states; the Old City administered by an international body; right of return for a few thousand Palestinians (not many, but a bare minimum needed by the Palestinians to sell any deal). Not perfect or ideal, by far - for either side - but that's the basis of compromise, no-one gets everything they want. Recently a leading Palestinian negotiator has confirmed this offer.

The problem is, it never happened. Apparently Abbas thought he could get a better deal from a Democrat US President. Since then the situation has deteriorated and the Palestinian leadership refuses even to return to the negotiating table without preconditions (preconditions Israel will only consider as part of a final peace deal). Meanwhile, Israel builds settlements while the Palestinian leadership continues to prevaricate. Abbas has recognised the monumental mistake made in 1947 but he seems unable (or unwilling) to concede that they're still being made. And as usual it's rank and file Palestinians who suffer.

Whatever one's views of Israel, or wherever one stands on the Palestinian issue, the fact remains that they have been badly let down by their own leaders, together with the wider Arab world, who must accept considerable blame for letting them down time and time again. And it doesn't look making mistakes is going to end any time soon.


Andrew Sibley said...

If my neighbour makes the mistake of leaving the house unlocked while he is away that doesn't give me the right to enter it and take his belongings - it is still theft according - and I would be called to make restitution.

In othere words, Palestinian mistakes do not absolve Israel of responsibility.

Calvin L. Smith said...

No, of course not... except it's always something somewhat less innocent than leaving a door unlocked (eg declaring wars, firing rockets, etc).