While the exact details of the new U.S. peace plan—also known as the “deal of the century”—are unknown, it is already clear that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority will reject it.
Their rejection will not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with their approach, reflecting the consistently expressed demands of the PLO/P.A. regarding any future peace deal. Cumulatively, these demands require the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Any suggested peace deal that does not meet these demands will be rejected by the Palestinians.
The original Israeli-Palestinian peace accord was signed by Israel and the PLO. The P.A. was created as a function of the 1993 agreement, a later agreement in 1994, and finally, the 1995 interim agreement. These agreements are together known as the “Oslo Accords.”
In those agreements, a number of issues were left to “permanent status negotiations,” including “Jerusalem, settlements, specified military locations, Palestinian refugees, borders, foreign relations and Israelis.”
Despite having agreed to negotiate on these subjects, over the last 25 years, on repeated occasions, the PLO/P.A. have made clear that while they were happy to assume the control and jurisdiction afforded to them by the accords, they had no intention whatsoever to negotiate any settlement regarding the other issues.
The PLO/P.A. stance on Jerusalem is unequivocal. According to them, Jerusalem, especially but not limited to the Temple Mount, is holy Islamic territory that no terrestrial body has the right to forfeit to non-Islamic rule.
In an interview with the official P.A.-controlled radio station The Voice of Palestine in September, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas said: “Our great people … we will not accept the statement that Jerusalem is a capital of two states. Jerusalem that was occupied in 1967—in [every] meter and centimeter it is our capital, and I say this out loud: Jerusalem and Palestine are not for sale or negotiation.”
Any peace deal that suggests leaving any part of Jerusalem, including but not limited to the Western Wall Plaza, under non-P.A./Islamic jurisdiction will be rejected.
Settlements and Israelis
While the initial willingness of the PLO to negotiate on the settlements might have suggested some flexibility and perhaps even recognition of the fact that before 1948, there were a number of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and that following an agreement Israelis would still be permitted to live in the area, the PLO/P.A. stance has since been made clear.
In a firebrand speech last year, Abbas declared on his official Facebook page that the Palestinians are “the Canaanites,” the “land belongs to the Canaanites,” and every Israeli house “built on our land” will end up “in the garbage dump of history.”
According to the PLO/P.A., any peace accord that does not ensure the dismantling of every “settlement,” including multiple neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and the expulsion of every Israeli from those areas, thereby creating a Nazi-style Judenfrei area, will be rejected.
Despite having agreed to negotiate a solution for the “Palestinian refugees,” in the last 25 years it has become clear that the PLO/P.A. has no intention of compromising on this subject either. In a radio interview with The Voice of Palestine in August 2018, P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said: “[Neither] America nor any other [state] will ever succeed in erasing the refugee issue. We will never bend to extortion and will never concede the right to return.”
According to the PLO/PA the “right of return” of every Palestinian refugee is an individual right that no organization has the jurisdiction to waive. Any suggested peace plan must ensure the right of every Palestinian refugee to return to the area in which he, or most likely his father/grandfather, lived in 1948. To quantify how many people the PLO/P.A. expects Israel to allow to “return,” the P.A. relies on the number of “refugees” registered with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
In its definition of “Palestinian refugees,” UNRWA includes all descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, regardless of whether they have been granted citizenship elsewhere. Based on this definition, there are 5,545,540 Palestinian “refugees” registered with UNRWA.
When one includes the spouses and children of the female refugees (who inherited their refugee status from their fathers but cannot pass it down to their children unless they married a male Palestinian refugee), it is reasonable to assume that the PLO/P.A. is demanding that Israel agree to absorb a Palestinian refugee population comprising no fewer than 7.5 million people.
Needless to say, absorbing this number of Palestinians would fundamentally change Israel’s demographics—there are a little more than 6 million Jews in Israel today. The PLO/P.A. understand that the influx of these refugees would signal the end of the democratic Jewish state.
Any peace plan that requires the PLO/P.A. to compromise on the subject of the Palestinian refugees will be rejected.
For the last 25 years the PLO/P.A. has made clear, ad nauseam, that they expect any peace plan to accept their demand that the territory of the Palestinian entity be delineated by the “June 4, 1967 borders.”
In reality, the June 4, 1967 lines—not “borders”—are the 1949 armistice lines set at the end of the Israel’s War of Independence. At the demand of the Arab countries, the Armistice Agreements specifically state that these lines are not borders. Accepting the existence of “borders” would have meant that the Arab countries accepted not only the existence of Israel, but the existence of Israel on a territorial area larger than specified by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan. Since they refused to accept the very existence of Israel, they also refused to see the Armistice Lines as borders.
On this subject too, the Palestinians are intransigent. Just recently, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered Abbas (who also heads the PLO) a piece of land that equal to more than 100 percent of the West Bank, including a 6.5 percent land swap. Abbas rejected the offer.
Any potential peace deal that does not accept the notion of adopting the Palestinian-invented “1967 borders” will also be rejected
On Tuesday, Erekat met with Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Erekat’s message to Mladenov, posted on his official Twitter account, was unequivocal: “Int. Law. End the occupation. Two States on 1967 borders. No to settlements, no to annexation. Relevant UN resolutions, including 2334, Arab peace initiative are the basis for lasting comprehensive peace.”
As regards “foreign relations,” the PLO/P.A. immediately decided to breach any and all restrictions imposed by the Oslo Accords. They established foreign embassies, sought recognition from foreign countries and the United Nations for the “State of Palestine,” joined international conventions and even joined the International Criminal Court, whose membership is restricted to “states.”
What is often described as “Palestinian rejectionism” is an inaccurate reading of the situation. The more honest evaluation of the situation is that for years the Palestinians have constantly and consistently expressed their demands regarding any potential peace plan. The mistake of the United States and the Europeans has been to ignore what the Palestinians were saying in the hope that some flexibility could be found.
The result is clear. While the Palestinian leadership and their supporters will blame the PLO/P.A. rejection of the new U.S. plan on the absence of dialogue with them on the plan, or on U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jewish advisers’ supposed bias, the truth of the matter is that any peace plan, offered by any person, at any time, that does not capitulate, in full, to the PLO/PA’s demands will be rejected.
The time has come for the various actors toiling for the ultimate Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to realize that the PLO/P.A. are still living in 1947 and still reject the very existence of Israel. No appeasing of the PLO/P.A., short of offering the destruction of Israel, will ever suffice.
IDF Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is director of Legal Strategies at Palestinian Media Watch.