NEW YORK (JTA) – There was a good deal that was wrong and fantastical in President Barack Obama’s address to the United Nations last week – such as the idea that al-Qaeda is “splintering” (actually, it is proliferating) or that Russia and Iran need to “realize that insisting on [Syrian president] Assad’s rule will lead directly to … an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate” (actually, neither Moscow nor Tehran have wish or motive to abandon Syria, their most important Middle East ally). Here, however, we focus on a single issue also misaddressed by President Obama: the alleged peace process between Israel and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA).
In his address, President Obama contended that “Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state.” Yet he did not explain how setting up an irredentist, terrorism-promoting PA-run state, whose leaders explicitly refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state; publicly glorify terrorists – like last week’s PA celebration of Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of the 1978 coastal road massacre in which 37 Israelis, including a dozen children, were slaughtered; demand that a PA state be Jew-free; and who do not even exercise control over Gaza, which is in the hands of the Hamas terrorist movement, could conceivably be in the Israeli interest.
Handing over the West Bank to [a] PA state, including the strategically vital Jordan Valley, would entail drastic deterioration in Israeli security. It would bring Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and most of Israel’s major population centers within rocket and rifle range of Palestinian terrorists. Terrorist movements, nurtured behind a wall of sovereign immunity, would create destabilization and cross border raids, to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
President Obama provided no evidence or argument as to why we should expect a different outcome today, other than this: both Israelis and Palestinians, he claimed, understand that peace is necessary and possible via the creation of a Palestinian state.
In fact, the idea that Israelis currently favor creating a Palestinian state, or believe that doing so would bring peace with the Palestinians, is false. No less false is the notion that Palestinians seek merely statehood alongside Israel.
Successive Israeli polls in recent years show that Israelis do not favor further concessions to the PA, nor do they believe such concessions, or even a peace treaty with the PA, would produce peace with the Palestinians. A June 2013 Smith poll can be taken as representative: 57 percent opposed the recent freeing of Palestinian terrorists into which President Obama pressured Israel, while 68 percent believe that Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would harm Israeli security.
Numerous Palestinian polls over the years – including one in recent weeks by Pew Research – show majority Palestinian support for suicide terrorism against Israelis. Fatah’s unchanged Constitution calls for the “demolition” of Israel and its armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. PA media, mosques, school curricula and official speeches produce unending reams of incitement to hatred and murder, glorification of terrorists and rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
The fantasy behind the idea of an Israeli/PA peace under prevailing conditions cannot be gainsaid by claiming, as President Obama did, that “the world is more stable than it was five years ago” and that the time is therefore “ripe” for international efforts to bring about an Israeli/Palestinian peace.
The Middle East is actually experiencing its worst turbulence and bloodshed in decades. Over 100,000 have been slaughtered in Syria. Massive instability and brutal violence is afflicting Egypt. Yemen has been wracked by internal conflict for over two years. Libya has become a jungle of jihadist warriors since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Thousands of Christians have been murdered and many dozens of churches destroyed in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.
In Iraq, over 5,000 people have been slaughtered in virtually daily suicide bombings just this year. The July 2013 death toll in Iraq was nearly 1,000 – more than in any other month since President Obama assumed office in January 2009.
Given these undeniable and demonstrable facts, it is nonsense for President Obama to assert that, on his watch, the Middle East is experiencing, or drawing into, a period of stability greater than that which prevailed when he assumed office. And even if he were right on this score, the obstacles to an Israeli/Palestinian settlement, of which we have mentioned only the most important, would still hold true.
Whatever else can be said of it, President Obama’s idea that a Palestinian state is “central” to Israeli peace and security is a mirage and an absurdity.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Board of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Dan-iel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.