Over the last 75 years, since Israel’s founding, the Palestinians have achieved the dubious distinction of being among the world’s most persistent and brutal terrorists.
Against all evidence, Palestinian leaders apparently believe this strategy will eventually achieve self-determination.
Note that the world’s most famous and beloved leaders usually motivate their people with an uplifting vision regarding how to achieve freedom, prosperity, or greatness. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, for example, was an inspiration to black Americans who yearned for equal rights.
Unfortunately, the Palestinians have never had such a visionary. Instead, their leaders attempt to motivate Palestinians with the nightmarish vision of eliminating the Jews—killing them and driving them from their ancestral home in Israel. Hardly the vision of Dr. King.
Notwithstanding, historical evidence is crystal clear: Palestinian terrorism, since Israel’s independence 75 years ago, has not worked at all. What’s also clear is that while the Palestinians have become skilled at the art of terrorism, they have failed miserably to establish the conditions needed for independence and statehood.
Indeed, it would seem that Palestinian leaders have focused on precisely the wrong skills. They have steadfastly ignored the arduous political work of instilling democratic values, creating governmental institutions and building an economy. Rather, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders like Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal have been better revolutionaries than statesmen.
What should be abundantly obvious, though, is that a strategy of terrorist murder will never bring Israel to the peace table. What should also be self-evident is that without leaders who dream of peace and democracy—in a well-oiled, functioning state, with a financially independent economy—the Palestinians will never create the independent nation they say they crave.
Surely, the Palestinians’ commitment to terror as a strategy cannot be doubted. They rank as some of the longest practicing and heartless “freedom fighters.” They have killed thousands of innocent Israelis—from the murder of a 19-year-old Israeli girl in 1952 to the Munich Olympics massacre in 1970, the Achille Lauro piracy murders in 1985, and 1,500 more killings of Israeli citizens during the First Intifada (1987-1993) and Second Intifada (2000-2005).
Tragically, such Palestinian murder and attempted attacks on innocents continue at a record-breaking pace today in Israel.
Think of the British-Israeli sisters—aged 15 and 20—killed just last month with their mother (48) in an execution-style, drive-by terrorist murder.
Think of the two Israeli brothers, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv (19 and 21 years old), shot at point blank and killed as their car was stopped for a traffic light in an Arab Palestinian town. They were on their way to a wedding.
Nonetheless, despite this decades-long war waged by Palestinian leaders on Israel—and despite numerous Israeli offers to relinquish nearly all the West Bank, grant a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, plus eliminate settlements—those same leaders have still refused to accept peace.
Indeed, it would seem Palestinians leaders are more committed to their violent strategy against Israel than to their actual liberation.
Surely the money and effort spent by Palestinian leaders on anti-Zionist violence could better have been used to create a culture and diplomatic atmosphere conducive to peace and democracy. As it is, the Palestinian people are so indoctrinated in Jew hatred and the “injustice” of a Jewish state, some reports say their leaders fear assassination if they were actually to sign a peace treaty.
Just as important as failing to promote a mentality that supports peace, the Palestinians have also allowed their terrorist zeal to distract them and misdirect their resources from building governmental institutions and a self-sufficient economy.
Current Palestinian political organizations are in shambles. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has effectively disintegrated and has long excluded Hamas and other Islamist factions. The Palestinian Legislative Council—supposedly the governing parliament—has not met as a body in some 11 years, nor held elections since 2006.
The Palestinian Authority, established by the Oslo Accords, has become a corrupt iron hand of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ regime. Two thirds of Palestinians say they want Abbas—now in the 18th year of his four-year term—to resign. In any case, the frail 87-year-old Abbas is bound to leave office soon, one way or the other. Unfortunately, he has created no line of succession or even designated an heir-apparent, so chaos will only escalate following his departure.
Finally, major efforts by Abbas and his bitter competitors—the designated-terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza—to reconcile have utterly failed. Rather than a single, well-oiled Palestinian government, the two dictatorships are in a frozen stalemate, effective only in generating effete gestures of anti-Israel violence.
Struggling national movements that inherit legacy industries—like the Iraqi Kurds’ oil fields—have it tough enough. But Palestinian leaders have zero experience managing a national economy, let alone launching one.
Both the P.A. and Hamas have been dependent for survival on funding from international sources, which have been unreliable—and shrinking—over the decades. While the P.A. has received more than $40 billion in foreign aid since 1994, it has developed no functioning economy, it’s effectively bankrupt, and sadly, still lives hand to mouth.
Hamas, famously, spends a huge part of its revenue—mostly from Iran and Qatar—on funding military equipment and troops for the futile, unending war it wages against Israel. Its unemployment rate is around 50%.
No wonder U.S. President Biden on his trip to the Middle East last year told Abbas, in a blinding flash of the obvious, that “the ground is not ripe” for peace negotiations.
On top of the Palestinians’ abject lack of readiness for their own state, Israelis have grown skeptical even of their neighbors’ desire for independence. Indeed, the Palestinians’ strategy of heartless murder of Jewish women, children and men, combined with their refusal to seize numerous Israeli offers of land for peace, have made the Jewish population bitter, distrustful and fed-up.
In short, Israel is unlikely to welcome another painful peace process, let alone repeat their generous peace offers of the past.
Palestinian leaders have left their movement bereft of the basic qualities required of statehood: A commitment to peace and democracy, stable governmental institutions and a functioning economy. Above all, if its cruel strategy of terror ever made sense in the past—it did not, of course—today it only causes Israelis to dig in and fight back more fiercely.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.