Dr. Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. He posted an article at CNN on Friday entitled, “Why Land For Peace Is Dead.”
The article reminds us that September 18, 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the so-called Camp David Accords.This agreement set up the idea that Israel could trade land and receive peace in exchange. In 1979, a peace treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Anwar Sadat for signing that treaty. Despite the loss of Anwar Sadat, the idea that the Sinal Peninsula had been successfully traded to bring peace brought hope.
Dr. Rubin reminds us:
It was this example that Bill Clinton sought to capitalize upon in the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed to recognize Israel and work toward peace in exchange for land in historical Palestine. I was in Bahrain in 1994 when PLO chairman Yasser Arafat entered the Gaza Strip to establish the Palestinian Authority. Enthusiasm was palpable across the region. Within weeks, Jordan had signed its own peace accord with Israel, and Persian Gulf emirates, Tunisia, and Morocco looked like they might follow suit.
The concept of land for peace was also the reason Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.
Dr. Rubin further reminds us:
The logic of land for peace became the basis for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. The formula of trading land for peace had already begun to unravel. Israel expected if not peace, then quiet. They had removed the last remaining dispute between Israel and Lebanon. Alas, Israel’s withdrawal foreshadowed greater conflict. Even though the United Nations certified Israel’s withdrawal as complete, Hezbollah laid claim not only to the Shebaa Farms – an Israeli occupied area which historically is part of Syria – but also seven villages in the Galilee, a region well within Israel’s recognized borders.
It sounds as if the concept of land for peace was being exploited early on. From there, things go downhill quickly.
The article reports:
Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was also rapidly deteriorating. Certainly, when it comes to the Arab-Israel conflict, there are always mutual recriminations. What is clear, however, is that Arafat had voided his pledge to resolve future conflict with Israel at the negotiating table. Many commentators mark the beginning of the “Second Intifada” as Likud leader Ariel Sharon’s September 28, 2000 visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. But this is dishonest. On August 24, 2000, several weeks before Sharon’s visit, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein threatened, “Violence is near, and the Palestinian people are willing to sacrifice even 5,000 casualties.” Communications Minister Imad al-Faluji reportedly admitted to Palestinian radio that “Arafat ordered preparations for the current intifada immediately after the Camp David summit, as part of the negotiating process with Israel.” The Oslo Process and the land-for-peace formula that underlay it had begun to breakdown.
There are two very telling quotes in the conclusion of the article:
Most Israelis view their experience of land-for-peace in the same fashion that Native Americans consider their experience with the concept.
...Hamas’ decision to turn Gaza into a forward missile base rather than the engine for an independent Palestine condemns 35 years of peacemaking to history’s garbage bin and sets the stage for a conflict far more disruptive than anyone in the region has seen in a half century.
Israel has been seeking peace since 1948. They are not the problem. Until Hamas seeks peace and acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, there will be no peace.