The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maybe Palestinians don’t want two states

Bizarrely, failure has not dulled Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis is within sight. Recently, Palestinian leaders flat-out rejected Kerry’s ideas for a peace deal. He shouldn’t feel bad. They’ve rejected every deal aimed to deliver Palestinian statehood, whether it was offered by President Bill Clinton or former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

So here’s a thought: Maybe the Palestinians don’t want peace, at least a majority don’t. Aside from multiple rejections of peace deals there is substantial evidence to back this up (in addition to the perpetuation of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel textbooks; glorification of terrorists; formation of a unity government with Hamas; continued violence toward Israel after territorial withdrawals and firing of the reform-minded prime minister Salam Fayyad). A recent poll of Palestinians found:

A majority of Palestinians believe that the current peace talks with Israel have reached a dead end and see no point in their continuation, a public opinion poll published Monday showed. The poll also showed that a majority of Palestinians expect the talks to fail. Previous public opinion polls have also indicated that a majority of Palestinians are opposed to the negotiations with Israel and expect a third intifada. . . . The survey showed that 56 percent of the Palestinians expect a fresh confrontation with Israel. According to the poll, 51% of respondents expressed opposition to the talks with Israel, while only 33% supported their continuation. Another 56% of respondents said they did not expect the negotiations to lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Over time polling consistently has shown Israelis want a two-state solution but are pessimistic about getting there anytime soon while Palestinians don’t  want two states. Given Palestinian behavior and opinion that is a sound conclusion.

You might conclude that it is delusional to obsess over a deal to which one side is dead set against. But no, the foreign policy establishment has gotten so used to the trope that both sides want peace, both want a two-state solution and both want the same thing for their children that they’ve ignored the real possibility this is false, at least for a majority of Palestinians. You can blame rotten leadership or anti-Israel brainwashing in Palestinian schools (perpetuated by this same leadership) or — if you are J Streeter or other apologist for the Palestinians — Israel itself. But that’s the reality. Given that is the case, shouldn’t we stop pressing for a deal that is not going to happen anytime soon and start focusing on changing attitudes among Palestinians, you know laying the groundwork for a state that would live in peace with Israel? Just a thought.

It is instructive that in the years leading up to the creation of the Jewish state the goal was not to brainwash Israelis to hate non-Jewish neighbors. They built hospitals, schools, a monetary system, and the other institutions that would prepare Israel when the state would launch. But alas the concept of “Fayyadism” — the bottom up creation of Palestinian institutions and the improvement of their economy in preparation of a state — has never interested Kerry. Maybe he should reconsider his aversion. What he’s doing now is useless. Just ask the Palestinians.