“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Never has George Santayana’s oft-quoted warning had greater significance than when it comes to Middle East “peace talks,” including the latest round scheduled to begin Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C. In constantly pressuring Israel to go far beyond the multiple and unreciprocated concessions it has already made, the United States ensures repetition of past mistakes, which will produce the same outcome.
Some history and the results for those who would learn:
• The Balfour Declaration (1917) and the Palestinian Mandate (1922). These called for the formation of a Jewish homeland while recognizing “nothing shall be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The Arab response: A series of riots, largely instigated by Mufti Mohammad Amin al-Husayni.
• The Peel Commission (1936) was formed to investigate the cause of the Arab Revolt (1936-1939). The commission recommended the partition of Jews and Arabs. The Zionist Congress accepts the proposal as the basis of negotiation. The Arab response: Outright rejection and a continuation of the revolt.
• U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine (1947) proposed a two-state solution and a divided Jerusalem supervised by the United Nations. The Arab response: Outright rejection, followed by violence. When Israel declared its independence, May 15, 1948, armies of the neighboring Arab states invaded. According to the secretary general of the Arab League at the time, Azzam Pasha, the goal was “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”
• Oslo Accords (1993). Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians lead to a Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. The response, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The killing continues. By one estimate, nearly 300 people were killed by Palestinian terrorism between 1993 and 2000.
• The Camp David Offer (2000). Prime Minister Ehud Barak offers PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat most of what he asks for. The response: rejection and the second intifada, which according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, killed more than 500 and injured more than 8,000.
There were other “peace talks” and initiatives, among them the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), the Wye River Memorandum (1995), Oslo II (1995), Taba (2001), Road Map for Peace (2003), and the Geneva Accord (2003). Some of these led to Israeli withdrawal from land it had occupied for security purposes, amid continued threats and terrorism, following the 1967 War. These withdrawals predictably led to more terror attacks from Arab regions.
To Israel’s enemies, talks and agreements are incremental steps toward their ultimate goal of annihilating the Jewish state. Two examples: According to the Endowment for Middle East Truth, 16 years after Oslo, in 2009, the official platform of the terrorist organization Fatah continues to affirm “armed struggle” against Israel. And the Palestinian Authority continues to practice incitement against Israel through student textbooks, television programs, sermons, editorials and the naming of public streets and buildings after terrorist “martyrs.”
At the upcoming talks in Washington, the issues will likely be the same as Camp David 2000:
• The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for “refugees” and their descendants to places in Israel from which the original “refugees” claim to have come.” This would overwhelm Israel, which is the point of the demand.
• Territorial compromise (again).
• Agreement on the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty in the region, producing an end to the war and termination of future claims, which Hamas and Hezbollah have promised never to accept.
If the all too familiar scenario plays out, Israel will give up more land, the Palestinians will make more promises which, like the others, they will break, and more riots and terrorism will follow under the pretext that Israel has not ceded enough. After the maximum propaganda value has been extracted, the Palestinians will agree to more talks and the scenario will be replayed.
To top it off, the Obama administration has assured Israel that Iran is not an “imminent” nuclear threat. This claim has been made before and then withdrawn. Why should it have credence now?
The United States and the West have learned nothing from history and, thus, are doomed to repeat it.
— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. firstname.lastname@example.org