Myths & Facts Online

The Peace Process

By Mitchell G. Bard


“Anwar Sadat deserves all of the credit for the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.”
“Egypt made all the concessions for peace.”
“The Palestinian question is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
“If the Palestinian problem was solved, the Middle East would be at peace.”
“Israel’s opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state is the cause of the present conflict.”
“A Palestinian state will pose no danger to Israel.”
“The Palestinians have never been offered a state of their own.”
“Yasser Arafat rejected Barak’ s proposals in 2000 because they did not offer the Palestinians a viable state.”
“Israel and the Palestinians were on the verge of reaching a peace deal during negotiations at Taba in 2001, but Ariel Sharon’s election torpedoed the agreement.”
“The Palestinians are being asked to accept only 22% of Palestine for their state while Israel keeps 78%.”
“Ariel Sharon has made clear that he does not want peace and no deal is possible as long as he is Prime Minister.”
“Israel must help Mahmoud Abbas improve his standing among Palestinians to facilitate the peace process.”
“The disengagement plan was a trick to allow Israel to hold onto the West Bank.”
“Israel evacuated Gaza, but turned it into a prison by preventing the movement of people and goods.”
“Israel should be replaced by a binational state where Jews and Palestinians live together.”
“The Palestinians have been educating their children about Israel and a future coexistence with Israeli Jews.”
“Palestinians no longer object to the creation of Israel.”
“The Palestinians have given up their maximalist dream of destroying Israel.”
“Palestinians are driven to terror by desperation.”
“Palestinians are helpless to stop terrorists.”
“Palestinians are justified in using violence because the peace process has not allowed them to achieve their national aspirations.”
“The Palestinian Authority has seized illegal weapons and fulfilled its other obligations to restrict the possession of arms to the authorized police force.”
“The Palestinians have fulfilled their commitment to arrest and prosecute terrorists.”
“Palestinian terrorists only attack Israelis; they never assault Americans.”
“Hamas is a force for moderation in the territories. It advocates Muslim-Jewish harmony and reconciliation.”
“There is a distinction between the political and terror wings of Hamas”
“Palestinians have no need for propaganda because the truth about Israeli behavior makes clear their barbarity.”
“Releasing Palestinian prisoners is a good way to build confidence for the peace process without endangering Israeli security.”
“Israel’s security fence won’t stop terrorism.”
“Israel is the only country that believes a fence can secure its borders.”
“The security fence should be built along the pre-1967 border.”
“Israel is creating a Palestinian ghetto.”
“Israel’s security fence is just like the Berlin Wall.”
“Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the security fence is illegal.”
“Hundreds of Israeli soldiers are refusing to serve in the territories. This proves that Israel’s policies are unjust.”
“The Palestinian Authority protects Jewish holy sites.”
“Peace with Syria has been prevented only by Israel’s obsinate refusal to withdraw from the Golan Heights.”
“Israel’s continued occupation of Lebanese territory is the only impediment to the conclusion of a peace treaty.”
“Israel has a surplus of water and its refusal to share with its neighbors could provoke the next war.”
“Saudi Arabia is a force for peace and moderation that does not sponsor terror.”
“The Arab world's commitment to peace is reflected by its abandonment of the boycott against Israel.”

MYTH

“Anwar Sadat deserves all of the credit for the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.”

FACT

The peace drive did not begin with President Anwar Sadat’s November 1977 visit to Jerusalem. Sadats visit was unquestionably a courageous act of statesmanship. But it came only after more than a half-century of efforts by early Zionist and Israeli leaders to negotiate peace with the Arabs.

“For Israel to equal the drama,” said Simcha Dinitz, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Simcha Dinitz, “we would have had to declare war on Egypt, maintain belligerent relations for years, refuse to talk to them, call for their annihilation, suggest throwing them into the sea, conduct military operations and terrorism against them, declare economic boycotts, close the Strait of Tiran to their ships, close the Suez Canal to their traffic, and say they are outcasts of humanity. Then Mr. Begin would go to Cairo, and his trip would be equally dramatic. Obviously, we could not do this, because it has been our policy to negotiate all along.”1

Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin proved that, like Sadat, he was willing to go the extra mile to achieve peace. Although he faced intense opposition from within his Likud Party, Begin froze Israeli settlements in the West Bank to facilitate the progress of negotiations. Despite the Carter Administration’s tilt toward Egypt during the talks, Begin remained determined to continue the peace process. In the end, he agreed to give the strategically critical Sinai — 91 percent of the territory won by Israel during the Six-Day War — back to Egypt in exchange for Sadat’s promise to make peace.

In recognition of his willingness to join Sadat in making compromises for peace, Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize with the Egyptian leader.

MYTH

“Egypt made all the concessions for peace.”

FACT

Israel made tangible concessions to Egypt in exchange only for promises.

Israel — which had repeatedly been the target of shipping blockades, military assaults and terrorist attacks staged from the area — made far greater economic and strategic sacrifices in giving up the Sinai than Egypt did in normalizing relations with Israel. While it received additional U.S. aid for withdrawing, Israel gave up much of its strategic depth in the Sinai, returning the area to a neighbor that had repeatedly used it as a launching point for attacks. Israel also relinquished direct control of its shipping lanes to and from Eilat, 1,000 miles of roadways, homes, factories, hotels, health facilities and agricultural villages.

Because Egypt insisted that Jewish civilians leave the Sinai, 7,000 Israelis were uprooted from their homes and businesses, which they had spent years building in the desert. This was a physically and emotionally wrenching experience, particularly for the residents of Yamit, who had to be forcibly removed from their homes by soldiers.

Israel also lost electronic early-warning stations situated on Sinai mountaintops that provided data on military movement on the western side of the Suez Canal, as well as the areas near the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Eilat, which were vital to defending against an attack from the east. Israel was forced to relocate more than 170 military installations, airfields and army bases after it withdrew.

By turning over the Sinai to Egypt, Israel may have given up its only chance to become energy-independent. The Alma oil field in the southern Sinai, discovered and developed by Israel, was transferred to Egypt in November 1979. When Israel gave up this field, it had become the country’s largest single source of energy, supplying half the country’s energy needs. Israel, which estimated the value of untapped reserves in the Alma field at $100 billion, had projected that continued development there would make the country self-sufficient in energy by 1990.

Israel also agreed to end military rule in the West Bank and Gaza, withdraw its troops from certain parts of the territories and work toward Palestinian autonomy. The Begin government did this though no Palestinian Arab willing to recognize Israel came forward to speak on behalf of residents of the territories.

In 1988, Israel relinquished Taba — a resort built by Israel in what had been a barren desert area near Eilat — to Egypt. Taba’s status had not been resolved by the Camp David Accords. When an international arbitration panel ruled in Cairo’s favor on September 29, 1988, Israel turned the town over to Egypt.

MYTH

“The Palestinian question is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

FACT

In reality, the Palestinian Arab question is the result of the conflict, which stems from Arab unwillingness to accept a Jewish State in the Middle East.

Had Arab governments not gone to war in 1948 to block the UN partition plan, a Palestinian state would be celebrating more than half a century of independence. Had the Arab states not supported terrorism directed at Israeli civilians and provoked seven subsequent Arab-Israeli wars, the conflict could have been settled long ago, and the Palestinian problem resolved.

From 1948-67, the West Bank and Gaza were under Arab rule, and no Jewish settlements existed there, but the Arabs never set up a Palestinian state. Instead, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan. No demands for a West Bank/Gaza independent state were heard until Israel took control of these areas in the Six-Day War.

“Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else gave them — a state. Not the Turks, the British, the Egyptians, or the Jordanians gave them this possibility.

— Prime Minister Ariel Sharon2

MYTH

“If the Palestinian problem was solved, the Middle East would be at peace.”

FACT

The Palestinian problem is but one of many simmering ethnic, religious and nationalistic feuds plaguing the region. Here is but a partial list of other conflicts from the end of the 20th century: the 1991 Gulf War; the Iran-Iraq War; the Lebanese Civil War; Libya’s interference in Chad; the Sudanese Civil War; the Syria-Iraq conflict and the war between the Polisario Front and Morocco.

“Almost every border in that part of the world, from Libya to Pakistan, from Turkey to Yemen, is either ill-defined or in dispute,” scholar Daniel Pipes noted. “But Americans tend to know only about Israel’s border problems, and do not realize that these fit into a pattern that recurs across the Middle East.”3

If the Palestinian problem was solved, it would have negligible impact on the many inter-Arab rivalries that have spawned numerous wars in the region. Nor would it eliminate Arab opposition to Israel. Syria, for example, has a territorial dispute with Israel unrelated to the Palestinians. Other countries, such as Iran, whose president threatened to wipe Israel off the map, maintain a state of war with Israel despite having no territorial disputes.

MYTH

“Israel’s opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state is the cause of the present conflict.”

FACT

For many years, the consensus in Israel was that the creation of a Palestinian state would present a grave risk to Israeli security. These fears were well founded given the longstanding Palestinian commitment to the destruction of Israel, and the later adoption of the phased plan whereby the Palestinians expressed a reluctant willingness to start with a small state in the short-term and use it as a base from which to pursue the longer-term goal of replacing Israel.

Israelis still believe a Palestinian state will present a threat, especially given the Palestinians’ illegal smuggling of weapons into the Palestinian Authority, and continuing support for terrorism; nevertheless, a radical shift in opinion has occurred and even most “right-wing” Israelis are now reconciled to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and are prepared to accept the risks involved in exchange for peace.

“In the end we [Israel and the Palestinians] will reach a solution in which there will be a Palestinian state, but it has to be a Palestinian state by agreement and it has to be a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

— Ariel Sharon4

MYTH

“A Palestinian state will pose no danger to Israel.“

FACT

Though reconciled to the creation of a Palestinian state, and hopeful that it will coexist peacefully, Israelis still see such an entity as a threat to their security. Even after returning much of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and allowing the Palestinians to govern themselves, terrorism against Israelis has continued. So far, no of concessions by Israel have been sufficient to prompt the Palestinian Authority to end the violence. This has not reassured Israelis; on the contrary, it has made them more reluctant to give up additional territory for a Palestinian state.

Israelis also fear that a Palestinian state will become dominated by Islamic extremists and serve as a staging area for terrorists. The greatest danger, however, would be that a Palestinian state could serve as a forward base in a future war for Arab nations that have refused to make peace with Israel.

“In Israeli hands, the West Bank represents a tremendous defensive asset whose possession by Israel deters Arab foes from even considering attack along an ‘eastern front,’” a report by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies notes. Today, an Arab coalition attacking from east of the Jordan “would face very difficult fighting conditions” because “it would be fighting uphill from the lowest point on the face of the earth: the Dead Sea and the Rift Valley that runs below it.” The mountain ranges in the West Bank constitute “Israel’s main line of defense against Arab armies from the east.”5

MYTH

“The Palestinians have never been offered a state of their own.”

FACT

The Palestinians have actually had numerous opportunities to create an independent state, but have repeatedly rejected the offers:

·         In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.

·         In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of an Arab state alone, but the Arabs rejected the plan.

·         In 1947, the UN would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan.

·         The 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations offered the Palestinians autonomy, which would almost certainly have led to full independence.

·         The Oslo process that began in 1993 was leading toward the creation of a Palestinian state before the Palestinians violated their commitments and scuttled the agreements.

·         In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected the deal.

In addition, from 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians.

A variety of reasons have been given for why the Palestinians have in Abba Ebans words, “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Historian Benny Morris has suggested that the Palestinians have religious, historical, and practical reasons for opposing an agreement with Israel. He says that “Arafat and his generation cannot give up the vision of the greater land of Israel for the Arabs. [This is true because] this is a holy land, Dar al-Islam [the world of Islam]. It was once in the hands of the Muslims, and it is inconceivable [to them] that infidels like us [the Israelis] would receive it.” The Palestinians also believe that time is on their side. “They feel that demographics will defeat the Jews in one hundred or two hundred years, just like the Crusaders.” The Palestinians also hope the Arabs will acquire nuclear weapons in the future that will allow them to defeat Israel. “Why should they accept a compromise that is perceived by them as unjust today?”6

“Barak made a proposal that was as forthcoming as anyone in the world could imagine, and Arafat turned it down. If you have a country that’s a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you’ve got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it.”

— U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeldd7

MYTH

“Yasser Arafat rejected Barak’s proposals in 2000 because they did not offer the Palestinians a viable state.”

FACT

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. In addition, he agreed to dismantle 63 isolated settlements. In exchange for the 3 percent annexation of the West Bank, Israel would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third.

Barak also made previously unthinkable concessions on Jerusalem, agreeing that Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the new state. The Palestinians would maintain control over their holy places and have “religious sovereignty” over the Temple Mount.

According to U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross, Israel offered to create a Palestinian state that was contiguous, and not a series of cantons. Even in the case of the Gaza Strip, which must be physically separate from the West Bank unless Israel were to be cut into non-contiguous pieces, a solution was devised whereby an overland highway would connect the two parts of the Palestinian state without any Israeli checkpoints or interference. The proposal also addressed the refugee issue, guaranteeing them the right of return to the Palestinian state and reparations from a $30 billion international fund that would be collected to compensate them.

Israel also agreed to give the Palestinians access to water desalinated in its territory.

Arafat was asked to agree to Israeli sovereignty over the parts of the Western Wall religiously significant to Jews (i.e., not the entire Temple Mount), and three early warning stations in the Jordan valley, which Israel would withdraw from after six years. Most important, however, Arafat was expected to agree that the conflict was over at the end of the negotiations. This was the true deal breaker. Arafat was not willing to end the conflict. “For him to end the conflict is to end himself,” said Ross.8

The prevailing view of the Camp David/White House negotiations – that Israel offered generous concessions, and that Yasser Arafat rejected them to pursue the war that began in September 2000 – was acknowledged for more than a year. To counter the perception that Arafat was the obstacle to peace, the Palestinians and their supporters then began to suggest a variety of excuses for why Arafat failed to say “yes” to a proposal that would have established a Palestinian state. The truth is that if the Palestinians were dissatisfied with any part of the Israeli proposal, all they had to do was offer a counterproposal. They never did.

“In his last conversation with President Clinton, Arafat told the President that he was “a great man.” Clinton responded, “The hell I am. I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.”9

MYTH

“Israel and the Palestinians were on the verge of reaching a peace deal during negotiations at Taba in 2001, but Ariel Sharon’s election torpedoed the agreement.”

FACT

Even after Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak’s unprecedented offer to create a Palestinian state in 97 percent of the West Bank, members of the Israeli government still hoped a peace agreement was possible with the Palestinians. In hopes of a breakthrough before the scheduled Israeli election, and the end of President Clinton’s term, Israel sent a delegation of some of its most dovish officials, all of whom favored a two-state solution, to the Egyptian port city of Taba in January 2001. The Israelis believed that even though Arafat would not even offer a counterproposal to Barak, they might induce a Palestinian delegation without the PLO chairman to make sufficient compromises to at least narrow the gap between the Barak proposal and Arafat’s maximalist demands.

The Israelis discovered, however, that the Palestinians were not willing to negotiate on the basis of what Barak had proposed. Instead, they withdrew many of the concessions they had offered. For example, at Camp David, the Palestinians agreed that Israel could retain two settlement blocs that would incorporate most of the Jews into Israel. At Taba, the Palestinians called for the evacuation of 130 out of 146 settlements and refused to accept the creation of settlement blocs. In fact, while the Palestinians now falsely claim that Barak offered them only cantons at Camp David, instead of a contiguous state, it is actually the Palestinians at Taba who sought to create isolated Jewish Bantustans that would be dependent on strings of access roads.

Besides other disagreements over settlements, many of which represented backsliding from earlier Palestinian positions, the parties remained deeply divided over the status of Jerusalem. Barak had offered to allow the Palestinians to make their capital in the predominantly Arab parts of East Jerusalem, and to share sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Arafat had insisted on complete Palestinian control over the holy site, and denied Jews had any connection to it. At Taba, the Palestinians also refused to recognize the area was holy to the Jews and insisted on controlling most, if not all, of the Western Wall.

On the third key final status issue, refugees, no agreement was reached. The Palestinians did not accept Israeli proposals on the number of refugees that would be allowed into Israel or the amount of compensation that should be paid to the rest. Beilin said the Palestinians should tell the refugees that once peace is achieved, and their state is established, “they will be allowed to immigrate to [the Palestinians state] and live in it in dignity. Not in Haifa.”10

Despite a positive joint statement issued at the end of the negotiations, the truth is that no agreement was reached at Taba and, according to the Palestinians themselves, the parties left the talks farther apart on the issues than they had been at Camp David. Abu Alaa, one of the lead Palestinian negotiators told Al-Ayyam after the talks that “there has never before been a clearer gap in the positions of the two sides.”11

MYTH

“The Palestinians are being asked to accept only 22 percent of Palestine for their state while Israel keeps 78 percent.”

FACT

The government of Israel has agreed to a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Once Israel agreed to give the Palestinians the independence they say they want, they shifted their complaint to the size of the state they were being offered. Many “moderates,” such as Hanan Ashrawi, who say they can coexist with Israel, have adopted the refrain that Israel is doing the Palestinians no favors by offering them a state in the disputed territories because it is asking them to accept a state in only 22 percent of Palestine while Israel keeps 78 percent. This is a very convincing point to show the unfairness of the Palestinians’ plight and to suggest Israel’s peace overtures are niggardly; that is, unless you know the history of Palestine and recognize that the truth is exactly the reverse.

Historic Palestine included not only Israel and the West Bank, but also all of modern Jordan. It is Israel, including the disputed territories, that is only 22 percent  of Palestine. If Israel were to withdraw completely from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it would possess only about 18 percent. And from Israel’s perspective, it is the Zionists who have made the real sacrifice by giving up 82 percent  of the Land of Israel. In fact, by accepting the UN’s partition resolution, they were prepared to accept only about 12 percent of historic Israel before the Arab states attacked and tried to destroy the nascent state of Israel.

Meanwhile, of the approximately 9 million Palestinians worldwide, three-fourths live in historic Palestine.

MYTH

“Ariel Sharon has made clear that he does not want peace and no deal is possible as long as he is Prime Minister.”

FACT

Ariel Sharon has been demonized by the Arabs and caricatured by the media, which often insists on referring to him as the “right-wing” or “hard-line” Prime Minister, appellations rarely affixed to any other foreign leaders. Sharon has spent most of his life as a soldier and public servant trying to bring peace to his nation.

It was Ariel Sharon who gave then Prime Minister Menachem Begin the critical backing that made the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty possible. At a crucial moment at Camp David, the negotiations were on the verge of collapse over Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s insistence that all Israeli settlements in the Sinai be dismantled. Begin called Sharon and asked if he should give up the settlements; Sharon not only advised him to do so, but ultimately was the one who implemented the decision to remove the settlers, some by force.12

Sharon’s views have also evolved over time. While he was once fiercely opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, as Prime Minister he has endorsed the idea. Since taking office, Sharon has repeatedly offered to negotiate with the Palestinians on condition only that they end the violence. He asked for only seven days of peace — a demand some found onerous despite the fact that the Palestinians had promised at Oslo eight years of peace — and later even dropped that demand. When he did, the Palestinians answered his gesture with the Passover massacre, the suicide bombing of a religious observance in a Netanya hotel in which 29 people were killed.

Even when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah proposed a peace initiative that was filled with provisions the Saudi knew Israel could never accept, Sharon did not reject the plan, and called for direct negotiations to discuss it. Sharon also agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians according to the road map formula devised by the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, despite serious reservations about many elements of the plan.

Although Sharon is one of the fathers of the settlement movement, he has said “not all the settlements in Judea and Samaria today will remain.”13  He also ordered the evacuation of four settlements in Samaria and all of those in Gaza despite virulent opposition from his own party.

If the Arabs doubt Sharon’s commitment to peace, all they need do is put him to the test – end the violence and begin negotiations. So long as the Palestinians keep up their terrorist attacks, no Israeli Prime Minister can offer them concessions.

“To keep 3.5 million people under occupation is bad for us and them....I want to say clearly that I have come to the conclusion that we have to reach a [peace] agreement.”

— Prime Minister Ariel Sharon14

MYTH

“Israel must help Mahmoud Abbas improve his standing among Palestinians to facilitate the peace process.”

FACT

The death of Yasser Arafat, stimulated hope that a new Palestinian leader would emerge with the courage and vision of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, and agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state that will live in peace beside Israel. The Palestinians chose Mahmoud Abbas to lead them. Abbas was involved in past peace negotiations and his election was welcomed by Israel. Still, Israelis had no illusions about Abbas. He was the number two person in the PLO and a founder of the Fatah terrorist organization. He had made numerous irredentist statements in the past and during his  campaign. His uncompromising position on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, for example, bodes ill for negotiations. On the other hand, he also demonstrated the courage to publicly criticize the Palestinian War, and  said that violence has not helped the Palestinian cause. He declared a readiness to make peace with Israel.

Israel has been repeatedly called on to make gestures to Abbas to help him consolidate his power; however, Israel owes him nothing. It is Abbas who must show that he has both the will and ability to reform the Palestinian Authority, to dismantle the terrorist networks, and to end the violence. Words are insufficient; he must take action. The agreements signed by the Palestinians are unequivocal about what is required of them; they cannot evade their responsibilities with conciliatory statements to the press in English or cease-fires with groups such as Hamas that remain committed to Israel’s destruction.

Though it has no obligation to do so, Israel has taken steps to show its goodwill, including facilitating the Palestinian elections (which international observers reported were unfettered by Israel15), releasing prisoners, and withdrawing troops from parts of the West Bank. More important, Israel evacuated all of its civilians and soldiers from the Gaza Strip.

The hope for a negotiated settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians now rests on the shoulders of Abbas. He has taken steps to consolidate his power. He has persuaded Hamas at different times to accept a cease-fire. He ordered Palestinian security forces to stop attacks by terrorists on Israelis and he sent a police contingent to the Gaza Strip to impose order. He also declared that only policemen and security personnel will be allowed to carry weapons. To date, however, he has had limited success in implementing these decisions and many Israelis question whether he is politically strong enough to impose order.

Coexistence is impossible unless Palestinian violence stops. There can be no attacks on Jews anywhere, no mortars or rockets fired into Israel, and no incitement to violence. This is not a case of giving extremists a veto over negotiations; Israel has not said that Abbas must stop 100 percent of the incidents before it will talk, but Israel does insist that he demonstrate a 100 percent effort to stop them. To date, he has not done so.

“I confirm that the resistance will continue after the withdrawal from Gaza, and the resistance’s weapons will remain to protect this achievement.”

— Hamas representative Osama Hamdan16

MYTH

“The disengagement plan was a trick to allow Israel to hold onto the West Bank.”

FACT

Prime Minister Sharon, as well as President Bush, have made it clear that the disengagement plan is consistent with the road map. Sharon has also repeatedly stated his acceptance of the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which would require the evacuation of additional communities in the West Bank.

Sharon’s motives were questioned despite the political risks he took in pursuing his plan. After all, few people inside or outside of Israel would have predicted as recently as the year 2000 that the man considered the father of the settlement movement would defy much of his own party and evacuate Jews from their homes in the territories.

Moreover, the disengagement plan was not restricted to Gaza; it also involved the dismantling of four Jewish communities in Samaria. While the number of Jews evacuated was small (approximately 550), the area that Israel evacuated was actually larger than the entire Gaza Strip.17

The Jews who live in the West Bank did not believe the evacuation of Gaza was meant to solidify their position. On the contrary, the reason so many Jews in Judea and Samaria defended the rights of the Jews in Gaza was because they saw their removal as a precedent that will eventually be followed in the West Bank. Sharon has only expressed commitments to retain the large settlement blocs that the overwhelming majority of Israelis agree should be incorporated into Israel, and many of the Jews living in smaller, isolated communities saw the disengagement as the first step toward their eventual evacuation.

“I think if they (Palestinians) can’t achieve progress in the time of the current (Israeli) prime minister, it will be very difficult to make any progress in peace. He (Sharon) is capable of pursuing peace, and he is capable of reaching solutions, if he wants to.”

— Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak18

MYTH

“Israel evacuated Gaza, but turned it into a prison by preventing the movement of people or goods.”

FACT

Israel decided to completely evacuate its soldiers and civilians from Gaza to improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinian Authority  now has full control over the population in Gaza. No one there is “under occupation.” Gaza Palestinians can now move freely within Gaza, live and work where they choose, and pursue normal lives, subject only to the restrictions imposed by their leaders.

Prior to disengagement, Israel established a development team to improve the economic circumstances in Gaza. Israel offered to provide assistance in building desalination facilities, sewage systems, hospitals, and a power station. Another team was created to facilitate trade with the Palestinians.19 In addition, Israel has agreed to allow guarded convoys to travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and proposed building a railway linking the two, demonstrating that Israel has no intention of isolating the two territories.20

Still, Israel is accused of imprisoning Gazans by refusing to allow the Palestinians use of a seaport or airport. Israel is prepared to allow the use of these facilities, but neither is ready for use now. Moreover, Palestinian businessmen and economists have said the construction of a seaport, which will take many months, is not a priority. If relations with Israel are good, Palestinians can use the Israeli port of Ashdod or Port Said in Egypt.21

Israel and the PA reached an agreement in November 2005 to allow greater freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, and to permit the Palestinians to begin building a seaport and airport. The deal stipulated that the Rafah crossing would be monitored by Palestinian and Egyptian officials, with outside observers from the European Union on site. Israel will have access to closed-circuit cameras to watch traffic going through the crossing, and will be able to voice objections over any person that they regard as suspicious, but will not have the power to veto an individual’s access to the other side of the border.22

“I thank Allah the exalted for His support in the Jihad of our people and for the liberation of the beloved Gaza Strip, and I ask him to help us to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Safed, Nazareth, Ashkelon, and all of Palestine.”

— Muhammad Deif, Commander of the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades23

The Palestinians were unwilling to negotiate a peace agreement in conjunction with Israel’s disengagement from Gaza; therefore, Israel has no assurance the area will not be used as a terrorist base. Hamas and other terrorist groups explicitly say they plan to continue their war to destroy Israel. The PA, meanwhile, refuses to honor its road map obligations to disarm the terrorists and dismantle the infrastructure. Given these conditions, and memories of the Karine-Athe ship laden with Iranian weapons meant for the PA that Israel seized in 2002 — Israel cannot put its population at risk by allowing Palestinians to bring material in by air and sea without any inspection, or to go to and from the West Bank without scrutiny. Israelis and Palestinians have been discussing how to provide Israel with the necessary security safeguards to allow for the quicker movement of goods and people over the border.24

MYTH

“Israel should be replaced by a binational state where Jews and Palestinians live together.”

FACT

The idea of a binational state is not new; it was first proposed by prominent Jews such as Judah Magnes in the 1920s. As is the case today, however, the suggestion enjoyed no popular support.

The utopian view of the advocates of binationalism was that the Jews and Arabs both had legitimate claims to the land and should live in peace together in one state. This idea negated the Jewish right to its historic homeland and also assumed the Arabs were prepared to coexist peacefully with the Jews within the same state. This was proven wrong through two decades of violence by Arabs against Jews in Palestine, and by the Arab rejection of the British White Paper of 1939, which offered them just such an arrangement.

“A Palestinian state will never be built on a foundation of violence. Now is the time for every true friend of the Palestinian people, every leader in the Middle East, and the Palestinian people themselves, to cut off all money and support for terrorists and actively fight terror on all fronts. Only then can Israel be secure and the flag rise over an independent Palestine.”

— President George W. Bush25

As early as 1937, it had become clear that the two peoples could not live together and needed to have states of their own. As a result, the Peel Commission proposed a partition in that year and the UN approved the same approach a decade later. Nothing has changed since that time to suggest any other solution can end the conflict.

Since Palestinian Arabs already constitute approximately 46 percent of the population living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and their birth rate is double that of Israeli Jews, they would soon become the majority of the population in a binational state. The Jewish character of the nation would then erode and disappear, and Israeli Jews would lose political control over the one safe haven for Jews.

Given the historical mistreatment of minorities, especially Jews, in Arab lands, this idea would be a recipe for the persecution of Jews (and Christians). One proponent of the idea of a binational state suggested that an international force would protect the Jews, but no leader would entrust the fate of the Jewish people to such an unreliable guarantor. More important, if advocates of binationalism acknowledge that Jews would need protection in such a state, what is the basis for believing this is a solution to the conflict?

MYTH

“The Palestinians have been educating their children about Israel and a future of coexistence with Israeli Jews.”

FACT

Rather than use education to promote peace with their Jewish neighbors, the Palestinians have persistently indoctrinated their children with anti-Semitic stereotypes, anti-Israel propaganda and other materials designed more to promote hostility and intolerance than coexistence.

For example, a Palestinian children’s television show called the “Children’s Club” uses a “Sesame Street” formula involving interaction between children, puppets and fictional characters to encourage a hatred for Jews and the perpetration of violence against them in a jihad (holy war). In one song, young children are shown singing about wanting to become “suicide warriors” and taking up machine guns against Israelis. Another song features young children singing a refrain, “When I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber.” Children on the show also say, “We will settle our claims with stones and bullets,” and call for a “jihad against Israel.”


Photo of Palestinian child dressed as a suicide bomber

Palestinians also called on their youth to join the battle against Israel in commercials on Palestinian TV that tell children to drop their toys, pick up rocks, and do battle with Israel. In one commercial, actors recreate the incident where a child was killed in the crossfire of a confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians. The commercial shows the child in paradise urging other children to “follow him.”26

“We have found books with passages that are so anti-Semitic, that if they were published in Europe, their publishers would be brought up on anti-racism charges.”

— French lawyer and European Parliament member Francois Zimeray27

Similar messages are conveyed in Palestinian textbooks, many of which were prepared by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The 5th grade textbook Muqarar al-Tilawa Wa’ahkam Al-Tajwid describes Jews as cowards for whom Allah has prepared fires of hell. In a text for 8th graders, Al-Mutala’ah Wa’alnussus al-Adabia, Israelis are referred to as the butchers in Jerusalem. Stories glorifying those who throw stones at soldiers are found in various texts. A 9th grade text, Al-Mutala’ah Wa’alnussus al-Adabia, refers to the bacteria of Zionism that has to be uprooted out of the Arab nation.

Newer textbooks are less strident, but still problematic. For example, they describe the Palestinian nation as one comprised of Muslims and Christians. No mention is made of Jews or the centuries-old Jewish communities of Palestine that predated Zionism. The State of Israel also is not mentioned, though many problems of Palestinian society are attributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict. References to Jews are usually stereotypical and are often related in a negative way to their opposition to Muhammad and refusal to convert to Islam. A lesson on architecture describes prominent mosques and churches, but makes no mention of Jewish holy places.28 A recent study concludes:

Despite the evident reduction in anti-Semitic references, compared to the old textbooks, the history of the relationship between Muslims, Christians and Jews in the new textbooks strengthen classical stereotypes of Jews in both Islamic and Christian cultures. The linkage of present conflicts with ancient disputes of the time of Jesus or Muhammad implies that nothing has really changed.

The lessons don’t end in school. Summer camp teaches Palestinian children how to resist the Israelis and that the greatest glory is to be a martyr. Campers stage mock kidnappings and learn how to slit the throats of Israelis. Four “Paradise Camps” run by Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip offer 8-12 year-olds military training and encourage them to become suicide bombers. The BBC filmed children marching in formation and practicing martial arts.29 In the summer of 2009, Hamas ran 700 camps for 100,000 children and teenagers. Included in the camps’ curricula were lessons in shooting firearms and dismantling grenades.29a

The Palestinian authorities also try to convince children that Israel is out to kill them by all sorts of devious methods. For example, the Palestinian daily newspaper, Al Hayat Jadida, reported that Israeli aircraft were dropping poisonous candy over elementary and junior high schools in the Gaza Strip.30

These teachings violate the letter and spirit of the peace agreements.

“We are teaching the children that suicide bombs make Israeli people frightened....We teach them that after a person becomes a suicide bomber he reaches the highest level of paradise.”.“

— Palestinian “Paradise Camp” counselor speaking to BBC interviewer31

MYTH

“Palestinians no longer object to the creation of Israel.”

FACT

One of the primary Palestinian obligations under the road map for peace is to affirm Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. How then does one interpret Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s description of the decision to create a Jewish state in 1948 as a crime?32

While Israelis will celebrate the 62nd anniversary of their independence, Abbas and other Palestinians will mourn the establishment of Israel on what they call Nakba Day. Had the Palestinians and the Arab states accepted the partition resolution in 1947, the State of Palestine would have also been celebrating its birthday, and Palestinians would not be lamenting Al Nakba (“The Catastrophe”).

Palestinians are understandably bitter about their history over these last six decades, but we are often told that what they object to today is the “occupation” of the territories Israel captured in 1967. If that is true, then why isn’t their Nakba Day celebrated each June on the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War?

The reason is that the Palestinians consider the creation of Israel the original sin, and their focus on that event is indicative of a refusal, even today, to reconcile themselves with the Jewish State. Abbas’s comments on the occasion of Israel’s 57th birthday, along with those by former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Korei, who said “our wound is still bleeding 57 years later,” hardly inspires confidence in their willingness to end the conflict with Israel.33

Terrorism will have no positive results, and there will be no chance to establish an independent Palestinian state as long as violence and terrorism continue.”

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer34

And Hamas, which continues to grow in popularity, has never left any doubt about its refusal to accept Israel’s existence. Since winning the election, officials and spokesmen have repeatedly expressed their unwavering commitment to the Hamas Covenant’s call for the destruction of Israel.35

Another disturbing aspect of past observances of Nakba Day was that traffic stopped and people stood straight and silent as sirens of mourning sounded, intentionally mimicking the Israeli practice on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This was an insidious way to make the odious comparison between the Holocaust and the creation of Israel.

It may be that the current leadership does not truly represent the feelings of the Palestinian people. An April 2008 poll, for example, found that 61 percent of Palestinians support Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.36 This is a hopeful sign, however, as long as the Palestinian Authority treats Israel’s creation as a catastrophe on a par with the Holocaust, the prospects for coexistence will remain bleak.

MYTH

“The Palestinians have given up their maximalist dream of destroying Israel.”

FACT

The Palestinian Authority continues to promote the maximalist vision in its school textbooks and, especially its maps. The most dramatic expression of the goal is in the map of Palestine published on its official web site, which shows Palestine as encompassing not only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but all of Israel as well. Similar maps appear in textbooks, which never show Israel.37

Israelis have expressed a willingness to live in peace with a Palestinian state beside Israel. As the map vividly indicates, however, the Palestinians continue to dream of a Palestinian state that replaces Israel.

MYTH

“Palestinians are driven to terror by desperation.”

FACT

The situation many Palestinians find themselves in is unfortunate and often quite severe. Many live in poverty, see the future as hopeless, and are unhappy with the way they are treated by Israelis. None of these are excuses for engaging in terrorism. In fact, many of the terrorists are not poor, desperate people at all. The world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, for example, is a Saudi millionaire.

When asked about two Palestinian suicide bombers who blew themselves up on a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing 10 people between the ages of 14 and 21, the cousin of one of the men said “these two were not deprived of anything.“38

A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that “economic conditions and education are largely unrelated to participation in, and support for, terrorism.” The researchers said the violence in the region cannot be blamed on deteriorating economic conditions because there is no connection between terrorism and economic depression. Furthermore, the authors found that support for violent action against Israel, including suicide bombing, does not vary much according to social background.39

Amnesty International published a study that condemned all attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and said that no Israeli action justified them. According to the report, “The attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups are widespread, systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians. They therefore constitute crimes against humanity under international law.“40

Terrorism is not Israel’s fault. It is not the result of “occupation.”And it certainly is not the only response available to the Palestinians’ discontentment. Palestinians have an option for improving their situation, it is called negotiations. And that is not the only option. The Palestinians could also choose the nonviolent path taken by Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Unfortunately, they have chosen to pursue a war of terror instead of a process for peace. Israel has proven time and again a willingness to trade land for peace, but it can never concede land for terror.

“The use of suicide bombing is entirely unacceptable. Nothing can justify this.”

— UN Special Representative for the protection of children in armed conflict, Under Secretary-General Olara Otunnu41

MYTH

“Palestinians are helpless to stop the terrorists.“

FACT

The media has helped create the misperception that the Palestinian Authority cannot dismantle the terrorist network in its midst because of the strength and popularity of the radical Islamic Palestinian terrorist groups.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not huge armed forces. Together, the armed wings of both organizations total fewer than 1,500 men. By contrast, the PA has 35,000 people in a variety of police, intelligence, and security forces.42 Not only does the PA have overwhelming superiority of manpower and firepower, it also has the intelligence assets to find most, if not all of the terrorists.

It is true these Islamic groups have achieved some popularity, but polls show that together they still are only supported by about one-fourth of the Palestinian population. The PA is not a democracy, so its leaders do not base their decisions on public opinion, but the data shows that it is not hindered from acting by any overwhelming sympathy for the radical factions.

The PA could follow the example of the Jordanian government, which has not allowed Hamas to establish a foothold in the kingdom. King Abdullah closed their offices in Amman, as well as their newspaper, and has arrested and deported numerous members of the organization.43

Despite the suffering the terrorists have brought them, the Palestinian public has not called for an end to the violence. No equivalent to Israel’s Peace Now movement has emerged.

Still, on an individual basis, it is possible for Palestinians to say no to terror. When the suicide bombing recruiter phoned the wife of former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi to ask if her son was available for an operation, she turned him down.44

In other countries, including Israel (where they helped prompt a withdrawal from Lebanon), mothers have often helped stimulate positive change. When enough Palestinian mothers stand up to the terror recruiters, and to their political leaders, and say that they will no longer allow their children to be used as bombs, the prospects for peace will improve. So long as they prefer their children to be martyrs rather than doctors, bombers rather than scholars, and murderers rather than lawyers, the violence will continue, and young Palestinians will continue to die needlessly.

“The Palestinian Authority, despite consistent promises by its leadership, has made no progress on its core obligation to take immediate action on the ground to end violence and combat terror, and to reform and reorganize the Palestinian Authority.”

— UN Mideast envoy Terje Roed-Larsen45

MYTH

“Palestinians are justified in using violence because the peace process has not allowed them to achieve their national aspirations.”

FACT

The premise from the beginning of the Oslo peace process was that disputes would be resolved by talking, not shooting. The Palestinians have never accepted this most basic of principles for coexistence. The answer to complaints that Israel is not withdrawing far enough or fast enough should be more negotiations, more confidence-building measures and more demonstrations of a desire to live together without using violence.

To understand why the Oslo process failed, and why Palestinians and Israelis are not living peacefully beside each other, it is useful to look at the first Arab-Israeli peace process that did work, the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations. Though the peace agreement was hammered out in intensive negotiations at Camp David, the route to peace was a long, tortuous one that took years to navigate. What made it possible, however, was the commitment both nations made to peace and the actions they took to insure it.

Egypt maintained a state of war with Israel for more than 25 years before Anwar Sadat seriously talked about peace. Bloody conflicts were fought in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1968-70 and 1973. The anger, heartache and distrust of a quarter century did not dissipate overnight. The process began after the 1973 war when Henry Kissinger facilitated the negotiation of a disengagement agreement in which both sides made significant concessions.

Egypt had demanded that Israel make a substantial withdrawal from Sinai and commit to abandon all its territorial gains from 1967, but Israel gave up only a tiny area of the Sinai. Rather than resort to violence, the Egyptians engaged in more negotiations.

The first agreement was signed in January 1974. It took about a year and a half before a second agreement was reached. It wasn’t easy. Israel was criticized for “inflexibility,” and the Egyptians were no less difficult. Anwar Sadat agreed to limit anti-Israel propaganda in the Egyptian press and to end his country’s participation in the Arab boycott. Yitzhak Rabin also made difficult territorial concessions, giving up oil fields and two critical Sinai passes.

“If the Israelis can make compromises and you can’t, I should go home. You have been here 14 days and said no to everything. These things will have consequences. Failure will end the peace process.....”

— President Clinton to Yasser Arafat46

After “Sinai II,” Egypt still had not recovered all of its territory. Sadat was dissatisfied and was pilloried by the other Arabs for going as far as he did toward peace with Israel. Nevertheless, he did not resort to violence. There was no unleashing of fedayeen, as Nasser had done in the 1950s. Instead, he continued talking.

It took three more years before the Camp David Accords were signed and another six months after that before the final peace treaty was negotiated. It took five years to work out issues that were as complex as those in the current impasse.

In return for its tangible concessions, Israel received a promise of a new future of peaceful relations. Israel could take this risk because Egypt had demonstrated over the previous five years that it would resolve disputes with Israel peacefully, and that it no longer wished to destroy its neighbor.

Egypt still wasn’t completely satisfied. Sadat demanded a small sliver of land that Israel retained in the Sinai. It took another nine years before international arbitration led Israel to give up Taba. Rather than using this dispute as a pretext for violating the peace treaty, Egypt negotiated.

MYTH

“The Palestinian Authority has seized illegal weapons and fulfilled its obligation to restrict the possession of arms to the authorized police force.”

FACT

According to the Interim Agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians, “no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment” except the Palestinian police. The agreement’s annex further specifies that the police are only permitted a limited number of pistols, rifles and machine guns and that all weapons must be registered. By accepting the road map, the Palestinian Authority agreed also to confiscate all illegal weapons.

During the Palestinian War, the Palestinians abandoned all pretense of fulfilling what Israel viewed as a crucial security requirement in the Oslo accords. The most dramatic example was the PA’s attempt in January 2002 to smuggle in 50 tons of Iranian and Russian-made weapons, including long-range Katyusha rockets, LAW anti-tank missiles, Sagger anti-tank missiles, long-range mortar bombs, mines, sniper rifles, ammunition and more than two tons of high explosives. After the IDF captured the Karine-A  with its illicit cargo, Yasser Arafat denied having anything to do with the ship; however, Omar Akawi, a PA naval officer who captained the Palestinian-owned and operated vessel, admitted the smuggling operation was ordered by the PA.47

Between the time of the capture of the arms ship and the evacuation from Gaza, Israeli forces fought a constant battle to prevent Palestinians from smuggling weapons through tunnels in the Gaza Strip. After the disengagement from Gaza, Israel and Egypt signed an agreement stating that Egypt was now in charge of patrolling the “Philadelphi Route” along the Egyptian-Gaza border. Egypt opened the border with Gaza for a short time after the Israelis evacuated in August 2005, and this allowed Palestinians to bring weapons and ammunition into Gaza to attack Israelis.

According to Major Gen. Doron Almog, “The term ‘smuggling’ does not do justice to the problem of the Philadelphi corridor...It involves the illegal importation into Gaza of significant quantities of arms and materiel, on a scale sufficient to turn Gaza into launching pad for ever-deeper attacks against Israel proper.”48

In addition to its unwillingness to stem the flow of illegal weapons, the PA has also flouted its road map commitment by repeatedly saying that terrorist groups will not be disarmed.49 Now dozens of armed militias have formed that are prohibited by the peace agreements. They have used rifles, machine guns, mortars, grenades and other explosives to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. Every time a photo is shown of a Palestinian holding a weapon — and they appear in the press all the time — it is evidence the Palestinians are breaking their promises and reinforces Israeli concerns about Palestinian intentions and the threat that a future Palestinian state might pose to Israel’s security.

MYTH

“The Palestinians have fulfilled their commitment to arrest and prosecute terrorists.“

FACT

The Palestinians have arrested suspected terrorists from time to time; however, they have had a revolving door whereby most of them are subsequently released.50To give one example of the failure to act against the terrorists, the head of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was not arrested until the end of June 2002, and then he was only placed under house arrest. Shortly thereafter, he attended a rally in the Gaza Strip. Despite leading the organization most responsible for the suicide bombing campaign against Israeli civilians, Yassin was never jailed.

The Palestinian Authority’s treatment of Palestinians suspected of terrorism against Israel is in stark contrast to how it handles Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel or opposing the policies of the leadership. Palestinians who commit “crimes” against the Palestinian people are usually arrested and, in several instances, quickly executed.51

The unwarranted release of those accused of violence against Israel sends the message to the Palestinian public that terrorism is acceptable. It also allows the terrorists themselves to continue their campaign of violence against Israel.The unwarranted release of those accused of violence against Israel sends the message to the Palestinian public that terrorism is acceptable. It also allows the terrorists themselves to continue their campaign of violence against Israel.

“We will not arrest the sons of our people in order to appease Israel. Let our people rest assured that this won’t happen.”

— Chief of the PA Preventive Security in the West Bank, Jabril Rajoub52

MYTH

“Palestinian terrorists only attack Israelis; they never assault Americans.

FACT

The PLO has a long history of brutal violence against innocent civilians of many nations, including the United States. Palestinian Muslim terrorist groups are a more recent phenomenon, but they have not spared Americans either. Here are a few examples of Palestinian terrorist incidents involving American citizens.

  • More than three dozen Americans were among the passengers who were held hostage when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked four jets in September 1970.
  • In 1972, the PLO attempted to mail letter bombs to President Nixon, former Secretary of State William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.
  • On March 2, 1973, members of the PLO murdered U.S. Ambassador to the Sudan Cleo Noel and chargé d’affaires George Moore. The killers were captured by Sudan and admitted they had gotten orders directly from the PLO. U.S. intelligence officials were believed to also have evidence directly tying Yasser Arafat to the killings, but for unknown reasons suppressed it. All the terrorists were released.
  • On March 11, 1978, PLO terrorists landed on Israel’s coast and murdered an American photographer walking along the beach. The terrorists then commandeered a bus along the coastal road, shooting and lobbing grenades from the bus window at passersby. When Israeli troops stopped their deadly ride, 34 civilians were dead and another 82 wounded.
  • In October 1985, a PLF terror squad commanded by Abul Abbas hijacked the ocean liner Achille Lauro. Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American passenger was murdered.
  • In March 1988, Arafat’s Fatah declared it had attempted to murder Secretary of State George Shultz by planting a car bomb near his Jerusalem hotel.54
  • On April 9, 1995, an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber blew up an Israeli bus killing eight people, including 20-year-old Brandeis University student Alisa Flatow.
  • August 9, 2001, Shoshana Yehudit Greenbaum, was among 15 people killed in a suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • July 31, 2002, a bomb exploded at the Hebrew University cafeteria killing seven and wounding 80. Five Americans were among the dead.
  • June 11, 2003, a bus bombing in Jerusalem killed one American and injured the daughter of New Jersey State Senator Robert Singer.
  • June 20, 2003, a shooting attack on a car driving through the West Bank killed Tzvi Goldstein, and injured his father, mother, and wife.
  • August 19, 2003, a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem killed five Americans, including children aged 9, 3, and 3 months; an 11-year-old American was injured.
  • October 15, 2003, Palestinian terrorists ambushed an American convoy in the Gaza Strip killing three U.S. citizens on contract to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
  • September 24, 2004, A mortar strike on a housing community killed dual citizen Tiferet Tratner.

“The bombing yesterday [August 9, 2001] of a crowded pizza restaurant in downtown Jerusalem, which killed at least 14 people and injured around 100, was an atrocity of the sort that must be distinguished from everything else that goes on in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict....the deliberate targeting of civilians, including children...is a simple savagery that no country can reasonably be expected to tolerate. Israel’s determination last night to respond was entirely legitimate….

It was Mr. Arafat who released dozens of Islamic militants from custody and has refused to rearrest them since. Terrorist attack was the altogether predictable consequence. It was Mr. Arafat as well who has consistently failed to bring violence to heel and stop official incitement against Israel. The Palestinian Authority, having stoked Palestinian anger and jettisoned a viable political process, cannot now shift the blame for deadly attacks by groups it is knowingly protecting.”

Washington Post Editorial55

MYTH

“Hamas is a force for moderation in the territories. It advocates Muslim-Jewish harmony and reconciliation.

FACT

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is opposed to Israel’s existence in any form. Its platform states that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad (holy war).“ The group warns that any Muslim who leaves “the circle of struggle with Zionism “is guilty of high treason.” Hamas’s platform calls for the creation of an Islamic republic in Palestine that would replace Israel. Muslims should “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,“ it says.56

MYTH

“There is a distinction between the political and terror wings of Hamas.”

FACT

Apologists for Palestinian terror, especially in the media, sometimes argue that Hamas shouldn’t be labeled a terrorist organization because only some members engage in murder while others perform charitable activity. The ombudsman for the Washington Post, for example, argued that, since Hamas is a “nationalist movement” engaged in “some social work,” the perpetrators of Palestinian suicide and other attacks should be described in the press as “militants” or “gunmen.”57

A false distinction is made between the “political” and “military” wings of Hamas. All of the activities of Hamas are intertwined, and serve the organization’s primary objective laid out in its covenant, namely, to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”

Hamas’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, denied that Hamas has uncoordinated wings: “We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”58 And the “political” leaders of Hamas freely admit their relationship to the murderers. “The political leadership,” Hamas spokesman, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ar-Rantisi said, “has freed the hand of the [‘Izz ad-Din al-Qassam] brigades to do whatever they want against the brothers of monkeys and pigs [i.e., Jews].”59

The political faces of Hamas don’t try to disguise their agenda. Khalid Mashal, for example, said, “Our enemies ... don’t understand that a suicide operation ... is a natural right.”59a And Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar told an interviewer, “I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.” He also has said, “Even if the US gave us all its money in return for recognizing Israel and giving up one inch of Palestine, we would never do so even if this costs us our lives.”59b

While Hamas does engage in social work, this is closely connected to the “armed struggle.” Various charitable activities are used to recruit young Palestinians for terrorist operations. Hospitals, mosques, sport clubs, libraries, and schools serve not only their expected roles but also act as covers for hiding weapons, obtaining supplies, and indoctrinating future suicide bombers.

The education system is used to incite young Palestinians to become martyrs. “The children of the kindergarten are the shahids [martyrs] of tomorrow,” read signs in a Hamas-run school, while placards in classrooms at al-Najah University in the West Bank and at Gaza’s Islamic University declare that “Israel has nuclear bombs; we have human bombs.”60

Hamas operatives use Islamic charities and social welfare programs to skim and launder funds, and to earn money to live on while they engage in terrorism. Recipients of Hamas charity also understand there is a quid pro quo. If they are asked to provide assistance, whether it be to hide weapons, provide a safe house for a fugitive, or act as a courier, few are likely to refuse.61

The United States government recognizes the connection between the charitable activities of Hamas and its terrorist campaign, which is why the Treasury Department designated six senior Hamas political leaders and five charities as terrorist entities. According to the Treasury Department, “the political leadership of Hamas directs its terrorist networks just as they oversee their other activities.”

“...any culture that takes pride in having the next generation as a ready supply of cheap weapons has already lost its future. Any leader who cultivates or condones suicide as its war plan has lost all moral standing. What do we say about societies that practice human sacrifice?”

— Columnist Ellen Goodman62

MYTH

“Palestinians have no need for propaganda because the truth about Israeli behavior makes clear their barbarity.”

FACT

Palestinian and other Arab leaders routinely use their media outlets to spread outrageous libels against Israel and the Jews to inflame their populations. Palestinians have become masters of the technique perfected by Adolf Hitler known as the “big lie.” As Hitler explained in Mein Kampf:

The size of a lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.
One example of the Palestinian big lie came on March 11, 1997, when the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission claimed the Israeli government had injected 300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus.63

Palestinians claimed in 2002 that Israel was dropping poisoned candies from helicopters in front of schools to poison children. That lie was updated in 2003 with the fabrication that Israel is making “bombs and mines designed as toys” and dropping them into the Palestinian territories from airplanes so children will play with them and be blown up.64 In 2005, the Palestinians announced that Israel was using a “radial spy machine” at checkpoints, and that the device killed a 55-year-old Palestinian woman.65

The Palestinians also regularly try to inflame the Muslim world by falsely claiming the Jews are going to blow up the Temple Mount or the al-Aksa Mosque. For example, on September 29, 2000, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station, sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aksa mosque.” This was the day after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, and the subsequent riots marked the unofficial beginning of the Palestinian War.

In the midst of that war, the Palestinian Authority TV “Message to the World” broadcast announced: “The Zionist criminals are planning to destroy the al-Aksa mosque on the ground that they are searching for the Holy Temple, which they falsely claim is under the mosque.”66

One of the most outrageous lies circulated throughout the Middle East was that 4,000 Israelis did not report to work on September 11, or “called in sick” that morning because they knew an attack was coming. Israel and the Mossad are also said to be responsible for the atrocities. Of course, this was also a lie, but it is the type of conspiracy theory that is widely believed by Arabs who maintain the forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is factual.

“I’ll remind those who focus on the road map that the first thing the road map said was that there must be security in order for peace to advance, that there must be a collective effort to fight terror.”

— President George W. Bush67

MYTH

“Releasing Palestinian prisoners would build confidence for the peace process without endangering Israeli security.”

FACT

Israel has released Palestinian prisoners from its jails on a number of occasions because the Palestinians have made this a major issue and said that it would build confidence in the peace process. To date, however, it is difficult to find evidence that these prisoner releases have done anything to improve the prospects for peace. The Israeli concession has not moderated Palestinian behavior or prompted the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fulfill its road map obligations to dismantle terrorist networks and confiscate illegal weapons.

Israel has naturally been reluctant to release prisoners because these individuals are in jail for a good reason. They committed crimes, often violent ones. Moreover, when Israel has made these political and humanitarian gestures, the criminals have often resumed their terrorist activities.

In August 2008, for example, Israel released 199 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill toward PA President Mahmoud Abbas. As in the past, rather than make a reciprocal gesture or concession, Abbas proclaimed, “There won’t be peace without the release of all prisoners.”67a

Releasing prisoners, especially those who were convicted of involvement in terrorist acts and, in some cases murder (as was the case when Samir Kuntar was freed in exchange for the bodies of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah), is a major concession aimed at advancing the peace process. It is particularly painful for the victims of those atrocities. These gestures are also risky for Israel because many of the prisoners who are released resume their involvement in terrorism and can create the impression that Israel can be pressured to release criminals through kidnappings and other coercive measures.

In the summer of 2003, Ariel Sharon responded to the entreaties of the Palestinians, and the international community, to release prisoners as a way to help bolster the stature of then Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Even though the road map says nothing about the subject, Sharon released 350 Palestinians. Not long after, two of the former prisoners, under the command of a third, carried out suicide bombings at Café Hillel in Jerusalem and the Tzrifin army base, killing 15 civilians and soldiers, and wounding more than 80.68

After Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, and prior to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, nearly 1,000 Palestinians were released. The terror continued.

Releasing prisoners is another example of one of the great risks that Israel has often taken for peace without any reciprocal gesture from the Palestinians

“The problem is the same problem that has been there for the three years that I have been working in this account. And that is terrorism, terrorism that still emanates from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other organizations that are not interested in peace, not interested in a state for the Palestinian people. They’re interested in the destruction of Israel.”

— Secretary of State Colin Powell69

MYTH

“Israel’s security fence won’t stop terrorism. A fence is being constructed to separate Israel from the Palestinian Authority. This will create a Palestinian ghetto.

FACT

Along much of the frontier separating Israel from the West Bank, there are either no barriers of any kind, or easily avoidable ones. In response to dozens of suicide bombings, and daily terrorist attacks against its civilians, Israel decided to construct a security fence near the Green Line (the 1949 armistice line) to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating into Israel.

A large majority of Israelis support the construction of the security fence. Israelis living along the Green Line, both Jews and Arabs, favor the fence to prevent penetration by thieves and vandals as well as terrorists. In fact, the fence has caused a revolution in the daily life of some Israeli Arab towns because it has brought quiet, which has allowed a significant upsurge in economic activity.70

Even Israelis who are not enthusiastic about the establishment of a Palestinian state argue the fence is needed to reduce the number of terror attacks. The head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, for example, has said that a physical barrier can be a deterrent and cites the example of the fence that was built to separate Israel from the Gaza Strip.71 Since its construction no suicide bombers have penetrated the barrier, while approximately 250 came from the West Bank during the Palestinian War.

The fence is not impregnable. It is possible that some terrorists will manage to get past the barrier; nevertheless, the obstacle makes it far more difficult for incursions and thereby minimizes the number of attacks. During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1,950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003. Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90 percent.

The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70 percent and 85 percent, respectively, after erection of the fence. The success of the anti-terrorist fence in Samaria means that the launching point for terrorists has been moved to Judea, where there is not yet a continuous fence.72

MYTH

“Israel is the only country that believes a fence can secure its borders.”

FACT

It is not unreasonable or unusual to build a fence for security purposes. Israel already has fences along the frontiers with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, so building a barrier to separate Israel from the Palestinian Authority is not revolutionary. Most nations have fences to protect their borders and several use barriers in political disputes:

  • The United States is building a fence to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants.
  • Spain built a fence, with European Union funding, to separate its enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco to prevent poor people from sub-Saharan Africa from entering Europe.
  • India constructed a 460-mile barrier in Kashmir to halt infiltrations supported by Pakistan.
  • Saudi Arabia built a 60-mile barrier along an undefined border zone with Yemen to halt arms smuggling of weaponry and announced plans in 2006 to build a 500-mile fence along its border with Iraq.
  • Turkey built a barrier in the southern province of Alexandretta, which was formerly in Syria and is an area that Syria claims as its own..
  • In Cyprus, the UN sponsored a security fence reinforcing the island’s de facto partition.
  • British-built barriers separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast.73

Ironically, after condemning Israel’s barrier, the UN announced plans to build its own fence to improve security around its New York headquarters.74

Even Israelis who are not enthusiastic about the establishment of a Palestinian state argue the fence is needed to reduce the number of terror attacks. The head of the Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, for example, has said that a physical barrier can be a deterrent and cites the example of the fence that was built to separate Israel from the Gaza Strip.44 Since its construction only a single suicide bomber has penetrated the barrier while approximately 250 came from the West Bank during the Palestinian War.

MYTH

“The security fence should be built along the pre-1967 border.”

FACT

Critics have complained that the fence is being built beyond Israel’s pre-1967 border, but the so-called Green Line was not an internationally recognized border, it was an armistice line between Israel and Jordan pending the negotiation of a final border. As Israels Supreme Court noted in its ruling on the route of the barrier, building the fence along that line would have been a political statement and would not accomplish the principal goal of the barrier, namely, the prevention of terror.

The route of the fence must take into account topography, population density, and threat assessment of each area. To be effective in protecting the maximum number of Israelis, it also must incorporate some of the settlements in the West Bank.

Most of the fence runs roughly along the Green Line. In some places, the fence is actually inside this line. The fence is about a mile to the east in three places that allows the incorporation of the settlements of Henanit, Shaked, Rehan, Salit, and Zofim. One of the most controversial questions has been whether to build the fence around Ariel, a town of approximately 20,000 people, the second largest Jewish settlement in the territories. To incorporate Ariel, the fence would have to extend approximately 12 miles into the West Bank. In the short-run, Israel decided to build a separate fence around Ariel, but said in February 2005 it would be incorporated within the main fence at a later stage.

Palestinians complain that the fence creates “facts on the ground,“,” but most of the area incorporated within the fence is expected to be part of Israel in any peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israeli negotiators have always envisioned the future border to be the 1967 frontier with modifications to minimize the security risk to Israel and maximize the number of Jews living within the State, and a growing number of Israelis have come to the conclusion that the best solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is separation.

The original route was 458 miles; however, the plan has been repeatedly modified. As a result of the June 2004 Supreme Court decision, the route is being altered further to move the barrier closer to the 1967 cease-fire line and to make it less burdensome to the Palestinians. The fence is now expected to cover approximately 385 miles and incorporate just 7 percent of the West Bank — less than 160 square miles — on its “Israeli side,” while 2,100 square miles will be on the “Palestinian side.”

To date, more than 140 miles of the fence has been completed. After the fence is finished, Israel will have to decide whether to allow Jews to remain in communities on the “wrong” side of the fence (where they would not benefit from the security the fence provides), offer them compensation to move, or forcibly evacuate them to the Israeli side.

If and when the Palestinians decide to negotiate an end to the conflict, the fence may be torn down or moved. Even without any change, a Palestinian state could now theoretically be created in 93 percent of the West Bank (the PA now controls 100 percent of the Gaza Strip). This is very close to the 97 percent Israel offered to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000, which means that while other difficult issues remain to be resolved, the territorial aspect of the dispute will be reduced to a negotiation over roughly 90 square miles.

MYTH

“Israel is creating a Palestinian ghetto.”

FACT

Palestinian charges that a fence would have the effect of creating a ghetto are nonsense. Prime Minister Sharon has accepted the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state on their side of the barrier.

When the Palestinians stop the violence, as required by the road map for peace, and negotiate in good faith, it may be possible to remove the fence, move it, or open it in a way that offers freedom of movement. Israel, for example, moved a similar fence when it withdrew from southern Lebanon. Until the terror stops, however, Israel must take precautions to protect its citizens, and finishing the fence is one of the most vital safeguards. The fence may help stimulate the Palestinians to take positive steps because it has shown them there is a price to pay for sponsoring terrorism.

In the short-run, Palestinians benefit from the fence because it reduces the need for Israeli military operations in the territories, and the deployment of troops in Palestinian towns. Onerous security measures, such as curfews and checkpoints, have in many areas become unnecessary or dramatically scaled back.

Every effort is being made to exclude Palestinian villages from the area within the fence and no territories are being annexed. The land used in building the security fence is seized for military purposes, not confiscated, and it remains the property of the owner. Legal procedures are already in place to allow every owner to file an objection to the seizure of their land. In addition, Israel has budgeted $22 million to compensate Palestinians for the use of their land.

Israel is doing its best to minimize the negative impact on Palestinians in the area of construction and is providing agricultural passageways to allow farmers to continue to cultivate their lands, and crossing points to allow the movement of people and the transfer of goods. Moreover, property owners are offered compensation for the use of their land and for any damage to their trees. Contractors are responsible for carefully uprooting and replanting the trees. So far, more than 60,000 olive trees have been relocated in accordance with this procedure.

Despite Israel’ss best efforts, the fence has caused some injury to residents near the fence. Israel’s Supreme Court took up the grievances of Palestinians and ruled the government had to reduce the infringement upon local inhabitants by altering the path of the fence in an area near Jerusalem. Though the Court’s decision made the government’s job of securing the population from terrorist threats more difficult, costly, and time-consuming, the Prime Minister immediately accepted the ruling.

The original route was 458 miles; however, the plan has been repeatedly modified. As a result of the June 2004 Supreme Court decision, the route is being altered further to move the barrier closer to the 1967 cease-fire line and to make it less burdensome to the Palestinians. The fence is now expected to cover approximately 385 miles.

MYTH

“Israel’s security fence is just like the Berlin Wall.”

FACT

Although critics have sought to portray the security fence as a kind of “Berlin Wall,” it is nothing of the sort. First, unlike the Berlin Wall, the fence does not separate one people, Germans from Germans, and deny freedom to those on one side. Israel’s security fence separates two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and offers freedom and security for both. Second, while Israelis are fully prepared to live with Palestinians, and 20 percent of the Israeli population is already Arab, it is the Palestinians who say they do not want to live with any Jews and call for the West Bank to be judenrein. Third, the fence is not being constructed to prevent the citizens of one state from escaping; it is designed solely to keep terrorists out of Israel.

Finally, of the 385 miles scheduled to be constructed, only a tiny fraction of that (less than 3 percent or about 15 miles) is actually a 30 -foot -high concrete wall, and that is being built in areas where it will prevent Palestinian snipers in from around the terrorist hotbeds of Kalkilya and Tulkarm from shooting at cars as they have done for the last three years along the Trans-Israel Highway, one of the country’s main roads. The wall also takes up less space than the other barriers, only about seven feet, so it did not have a great impact on the area where it was built.

Most of the barrier will be a chain-link type fence, similar to those used all over the United States, combined with underground and long-range sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, trenches, landmines and guard paths. Manned checkpoints will constitute the only way to travel back and forth through the fence. The barrier is altogether about 160 feet wide in most places.

Israel did not want to build a fence, and resisted doing so for more than 35 years. If anyone is to blame for the construction, it is Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other Palestinian terrorists. Perhaps the construction of the security fence may help stimulate the Palestinians to take action against the terrorists because the barrier has shown them there is a price to pay for sponsoring terrorism.

MYTH

“Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the security fence is illegal.”

FACT

In 1989, Alan Dershowitz observed, “For the first time in Mideast history, there is an independent judiciary willing to listen to grievances of Arabs — that judiciary is called the Israeli Supreme Court.75 That court took up the grievances of Palestinians who claimed the Israeli security fence causes hardships for them, is illegal according to Israeli and international law, and is meant to disguise the Israeli objective of annexing additional territory to Israel.

The Court ruled that a small segment of the fence – an 18 -mile stretch near Jerusalem (out of the 125 miles built at that time) – needed to be rerouted because of the hardships caused to the Palestinians in the area who were cut off from their farms, schools, and villages.

The Court also said, however, that it could not accept the argument that the fence’s route was determined by politics rather than security. The Justices specifically rejected the idea that the fence should be constructed on the Green Line, noting that “it is the security perspective — and not the political one — which must examine a route based on its security merits alone, without regard for the location of the ‘Green Line.’”

The Justices also concluded “it is permitted, by the international law applicable to an area under belligerent occupation to take possession of an individual’s land in order to erect a separation fence upon it, on the condition that this is necessitated by military needs. To the extent that construction of the Fence is a military necessity, it is permitted, therefore, by international law. Indeed, the obstacle is intended to take the place of combat military operations, by physically blocking terrorist infiltration into Israeli population centers.”

The fundamental question for the Court was how to satisfy Israel’s security concerns without causing disproportionate injury to the residents affected by the fence. The Justices ruled that international humanitarian law and Israeli administrative law “require making every possible effort to ensure that injury will be proportionate. Where construction of the Separation Fence demands that inhabitants be separated from their lands, access to these lands must be ensured, in order to minimize the damage to the extent possible.”

The Justices acknowledged that the ruling would have an impact on the fight against terrorism. “We are aware this decision does not make it easier to deal with that reality. This is the destiny of a democracy: She does not see all means as acceptable, and the ways of her enemies are not always open before her. A democracy must sometimes fight with one arm tied behind her back. Even so, a democracy has the upper hand. The rule of law and individual liberties constitute an important aspect of her security stance. At the end of the day, they strengthen her spirit and this strength allows her to overcome her difficulties.”

“In the length of the fence involved, in the number of villages and people affected, the [Israeli Supreme Court] decision is hardly momentous. But as a statement of principle, it is head and shoulders above anything any other Middle East government would permit — never mind implement.”

— Richard Cohen76

The Supreme Court once again demonstrated that in Israel the rule of law and judicial review is applied even to matters of national security and that it can balance the State’s need to protect its citizens with humanitarian matters.

Though the Court’s decision made the government’s job of protecting its citizens from terrorist threats more difficult, costly, and time-consuming, the government accepted the ruling and began to reroute the section of the fence near Jerusalem. In addition, the Court’s ruling is also being factored into the planning of the rest of the barrier.

MYTH

“Hundreds of Israeli soldiers are refusing to serve in the territories. This proves that Israel’s policies are unjust.”

FACT

About 400 Israelis serving in the reserves (out of 445,000 - 0.08 percent) signed a petition in 2002 saying they would no longer serve in the territories. They received a lot of publicity because it is so unusual for Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve their country. What attracted no media attention was the reaction of most Israelis to the call to serve in Operation Defensive Shield. The response was more than 100 percent. Israelis who were not obligated to report because they were too old, had disabilities, or were otherwise excused from service volunteered to go to the territories.

In a democracy, such as Israel, people may protest their government’s policies, but the voices of a minority do not carry more weight than the majority. In fact, a poll from Tel Aviv University showed that  nearly 80 percent of the public rejected the refuseniks’ argument. Total support for their point of view was 15 percent. In addition, a counter-petition was published in Israeli newspapers in February signed by more than 1,000 other reservists who said they were “amazed and ashamed” by the original letter written by a group of what they called “draft dodgers.” Also, more than 4,500 reservists volunteered for additional duty.77

The soldiers raised important issues about the treatment of Palestinians by the military that were taken seriously by the Israeli public and government, but their actions were also politically motivated and not mere acts of conscience. Shlomo Gazit, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, and someone who sympathized with the political goals of the refusenik soldiers, wrote an impassioned plea for them to give up their protest. He pointed out that Israeli security depends on soldiers’ absolute loyalty to the elected officials of the nation and the apolitical nature of the security system. Gazit noted that soldiers can’t decide which orders they wish to carry out and said that if the refuseniks’ principles were adopted they could find that many other soldiers would take the exact opposite views and, say, refuse to carry out orders to evacuate settlements or withdraw from the territories, which is precisely what happened three years later when another handful of soldiers objected to the disengagement from Gaza. As Gazit also observed, soldiers can carry out their missions without losing their humanity and can refuse illegal orders.78

In addition, Israel’s democractic society gives the soldiers other outlets to pursue their political agenda, such as creating a new political movement or using an existing one to change Israeli policy. Another option is to take their grievances before the judiciary. Eight of the Israeli reservists did just that, and their case was heard by Israel’s Supreme Court. In December 2002, the court ruled that reservists cannot choose their assignments. The court said allowing them to do so could lead to a situation in which each army unit operates according to its own moral code.79

While the small minority of “refuseniks” created a sensation in 2002, the number of Israelis who have resisted service in the territories has declined ever since. In 2002, 129 reservists were jailed; in 2003, the figure fell to 26.80 In November 2004, an all-time high of motivation to serve in IDF combat units was recorded when 92 percent of fresh conscripts asked to be deployed in these units.81

MYTH

“The Palestinian Authority protects Jewish holy sites.”

FACT

Less than 24 hours after the last IDF soldier withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority  bulldozers began to raze synagogues that were left behind by Jewish residents. Thousands of Palestinians also stormed the former Gaza settlements and set fire to several synagogues and yeshivas while PA security forces stood and watched. Several Palestinians belonging to terrorist groups climbed the roofs of synagogues and placed green flags on top while other members inside set fire to the buildings and looted items that the Jews left behind.82

Israel decided not to dismantle the 19 synagogues and yeshivas in Gaza and the evacuated northern Samaria settlements. “It would be a historic Jewish mistake to destroy the synagogues,” said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.83

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was told by Israel that since the disengagement plan was implemented, the “PA now had the moral responsibility to protect the synagogues as places with religious significance.”84 Earlier in the week, Ministry of Defense workers placed signs that read “Holy Place” in Arabic and English on synagogue walls throughout Gaza so the Palestinians would know not to destroy them.85

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defended the razing of Gaza synagogues by claiming, “There are no synagogues here.” Abbas said the buildings that were formally synagogues were now emptied and in danger of collapsing, and must be demolished to build homes for thousands of Palestinians.86 The PA maintained that the synagogues were symbols of Israeli occupation, and boycotted the ceremony marking the handover of Gaza to the Palestinians in protest of Israel’s decision to leave the synagogues intact.87

This was not the first instance when the PA has failed to protect Jewish holy places:

  • In September 1996, Palestinian rioters destroyed a synagogue at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
  • Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem has been repeatedly attacked since 1996.
  • In October 2000, Joseph’s Tomb was torched after the Israeli garrison guarding it was temporarily withdrawn. It was subsequently rebuilt as a mosque.
  • Also in October 2000, the ancient synagogue in Jericho was destroyed by arson and a second historic synagogue was damaged.

PA textbooks continue to teach young Palestinians that Jews have no connection to the Land of Israel and to disparage Judaism, so it should not be surprising that Jewish institutions are not shown respect. This is one reason why Israel is reluctant to make any compromises regarding Jerusalem that might allow Palestinians to threaten the sanctity of the shrines of any religion.

MYTH

“Peace with Syria has been prevented only by Israel’s obstinate refusal to withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

FACT

Given past history, Israel is understandably reluctant to give away the strategic high ground and its early-warning system. Nevertheless, Israel had repeatedly expressed a willingness to negotiate the future of the Golan Heights.  One possible compromise might be a partial Israeli withdrawal, along the lines of its 1974 disengagement agreement with Syria. Another would be a complete withdrawal, with the Golan becoming a demilitarized zone.

After losing the 1999 election, Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed reports that he had engaged in secret talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad to withdraw from the Golan and maintain a strategic early-warning station on Mount Hermon. Publicly, Assad continued to insist on a total withdrawal with no compromises and indicated no willingness to go beyond agreeing to a far more limited “non-belligerency” deal with Israel than the full peace treaty Israel has demanded.

.

The election of Ehud Barak stimulated new movement in the peace process, with intensive negotiations held in the United States in January 2000 between Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. These talks raised new hope for the conclusion of a peace treaty, but the discussions did not bear fruit. Hafez Assad died in June 2000 and no further talks have been held as Assad’s son and successor, Bashar, has not indicated any shift in Syria’s position on the Golan.

Israel has made clear it is prepared to compromise on the Golan and make significant territorial concessions. The only obstacle is Assad’s unwillingness to say yes to peace with Israel.

MYTH

“Israel’s continued occupation of Lebanese territory is the only impediment to the conclusion of a peace treaty.”

FACT

Israel has never had any hostile intentions toward Lebanon, but has been forced to fight as a result of the chaotic conditions in southern Lebanon that have allowed terrorists, first the PLO, and now Hizballah, to menace citizens living in northern Israel. In 1983, Israel did sign a peace treaty with Lebanon, but Syria forced President Amin Gemayel to renege on the agreement.

Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and, according to the UN, constituted an Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425. Still, Hizballah and the Lebanese government insist that Israel holds Lebanese territory in a largely uninhabited patch called Shebaa Farms. This claim provides Hizballah with a pretext to continue its attacks against Israel. The Israelis maintain, however, that the land was captured from Syria.

Syria, meanwhile, has used its influence over Lebanon to discourage any peace negotiations until its claims on the Golan Heights are resolved. Once Israel and Syria reach an agreement, the expectation is that Lebanon would quickly do so afterward.

“Palestine is not only a part of our Arab homeland, but a basic part of southern Syria.”

— Syrian President Hafez Assad88

MYTH

“Israel has a surplus of water and its refusal to share with its neighbors could provoke the next war.”

FACT

The supply of water is a matter of life and death, war and peace for the peoples of the Middle East. A Jerusalem Post headline concisely stated the security threat for Israel, “The hand that controls the faucet rules the country.”89

King Hussein said in 1990 the one issue that could bring Jordan to war again is water, so it is not surprising that an agreement on water supplies was critical to the negotiation of the peace treaty with Israel. Jordan now receives an annual allotment of water from Israel.90

Israel has had an ongoing water deficit for a number of years. Simply put, the amount of water consumed is greater than the amount of water collected from rainfall. In a drought year, the situation worsens, because the amount of water in reservoirs and the amount of water flowing in rivers and streams is significantly decreased.

The situation is growing more dangerous each year as the population of the region continues to grow exponentially, political disputes over existing water supplies become more pronounced, and Israel and the Palestinians negotiate rights to the water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel has three main water sources: the coastal and mountain aquifers and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Each supply approximately 25 percent of the total consumed. Roughly 20 percent is derived from smaller aquifers. The remaining 5 percent comes from the Shafdan project that recycles sewage in metropolitan Tel Aviv.

“In Old Testament times, there were two ways of solving disputes over water, which has always been scarce in our region. One was to fight over it. The other was to jointly place over the mouth of the well, a stone so large that five shepherds were needed to lift it, creating the need for cooperation.”

— Former Israeli Agriculture Minister Yaacov Tzur

The coastal aquifer’s water quality is deteriorating because of over-pumping and contamination from sewage. Lake Kinneret requires a delicate water level balance. If the level is too low, salty water from neighboring springs seeps in. If the level rises too high, it can flood. The mountain aquifer is in the best condition.

The mountain aquifer is also the most politically contentious. Prior to 1967, Israel used 95 percent of this water, the Arabs only 5 percent. Since then, the Arab share has more than tripled, but the Palestinians are still demanding that these proportions be reversed. They argue that since the aquifer lies under the West Bank, it should come under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians maintain that Israel is “stealing” their water, but Israel wants to retain control over the lion’s share of the water.

The water issue clearly affects Israel’s economy and security. One danger, for example, is that pumping of water in Judea and Samaria by Palestinians could increase to a degree that would completely eliminate pumping in Israel. The Palestinians have also demanded the right to expand their agricultural sector, using the same limited water resources that Israel’s State Comptroller said were inadequate to expand Israel’s agricultural production. Meanwhile, Palestinian water authorities have said as much as 50 percent of domestic water is lost because of old, inefficient supply systems. The PA’s dilemma is even worse in Gaza, where the sole aquifer is already virtually unusable because of contamination and salinity.

The amount of water to be supplied to the territories by Israel was determined in negotiations between the two sides, and Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations under the Interim Agreement. In addition, the United States agreed to fund a pipeline to bring water to Gaza from Israel’s desalinization plant in Ashkelon.91

In response to the threat to water supplies posed by the Palestinian War, Palestinian and Israeli water officials issued a joint statement in January 2001 opposing any damage to water and wastewater infrastructure, and expressing the intent to ensure the water supply to the Palestinian and Israeli cities, towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.92

Israel could secure its water future by maintaining control over three West Bank regions comprising 20 percent of the land; however, pressure from the international community and the momentum of the peace process may force Israel to give up some or all of these territories.

“Israel has no right even to a single drop of water in this region.”

— Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa93

Water is also an issue in negotiations with the Syrians. Syria demands the full return of the Golan Heights in return for peace with Israel. According to water expert Joyce Starr, an Israeli government that concedes territory on the Golan without a guaranteed supply of Yarmuk waters, or some alternative source of water, would be putting the nation in “grave jeopardy.”94

Israel is taking steps to ameliorate the water issue by beginning construction of major desalination plants that are scheduled to provide, by 2006, nearly one-fourth of Israel’s needs. An agreement has also been reached that will allow Israel to import water from Turkey. Israel has offered to build a desalination plant in Hadera for the Palestinians in the West Bank, but they have rejected the idea.

MYTH

“Saudi Arabia is a force for peace and moderation that does not sponsor terror.”

FACT

“The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader,” said Laurent Murawiec, a Rand Corporation analyst in a secret briefing to a top Pentagon advisory board. “Saudi Arabia,” he added, “supports our enemies and attacks our allies.”95

The most dramatic evidence of Saudi involvement in terror is the fact that 15 of the 19 September 11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Despite this, the Saudi government refused to cooperate with the U.S. investigation of the attacks and rejected American requests to stop the flow of money through charitable organizations to terrorist groups. Many such charities are based in the United States and are being investigated by the Treasury Department.

Saudi support for terrorism and al-Qaida, in particular, is not restricted to extremists in the kingdom. A classified American intelligence report revealed that an October 2001 survey of educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 found that 95 percent of the respondents supported Osama bin Laden’s cause.96 According to a UN report, “al-Qaida was able to receive between $300 and $500 million over the last 10 years from wealthy businessmen and bankers whose fortunes represent about 20 percent of the Saudi GNP, through a web of charities and companies acting as fronts.”97

The Saudis have been heavily involved in supporting Palestinian terror. They were the largest financial backer of Hamas during the 1990s, providing perhaps as much as $10 million annually. At one point,  Abu Mazen even complained to the governor of Riyadh that Saudi money wasn’t reaching the “martyrs,” but was going directly to Hamas.98

The Saudis held a terror telethon on April 11, 2002, which raised more than $100 million for families of Palestinian “martyrs,” including the families of suicide bombers99 and, during Operation Defensive Shield, the Israelis found numerous documents linking the Saudis to terror. One, for example, itemized their allocations line by line, detailing the circumstances of the death of Palestinians whose families received assistance, and making clear the allocation was for suicide attacks. The information came from the Saudi Committee for Aid to the Al-Quds Intifada, which is headed by Saudi Minister of the Interior, Prince Nayef bin ‘Abd al-Aziz.

Israeli authorities arrested an Israeli-Arab Hamas activist in September 2005 who confessed to receiving instructions for Hamas field operatives and hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Hamas headquarters in Saudi Arabia. Hamas leaders in Saudi Arabia provided funding to establish a “communications office” to report developments on the ground to Hamas operatives abroad. Money was also transferred, often under the cover of charity work, to the families of suicide bombers, imprisoned terrorists and Hamas institutions.100

MYTH

“The Arab world’s commitment to peace is reflected by its abandonment of the boycott against Israel.”

FACT

The Arab League declared a boycott against the Jews before Israel was established, and most of its members have pursued a diplomatic and economic embargo against the Jewish State since its establishment. The boycott’s influence waned after Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, the Palestinians became engaged in peace negotiations, and several Gulf states started ignoring the blacklist (U.S. companies continue to receive requests to cooperate with the boycott from GCC countries), but it was never abandoned, and several nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, have energetically enforced it for decades.

To give an indication of how entrenched the boycott is within the Arab world, the Bureau for Boycotting Israel held its 72nd conference in April 2004. Representatives from 19 Arab countries met in Syria to discuss tightening the boycott, and blacklisting new companies that do business with the Jewish state.101

To their credit, Mauritania, Egypt and Jordan, which have diplomatic ties with Israel, stayed away from the meeting. The Palestinians, however, did participate, and the head of their delegation, Ali Abo al-Hawa, asked the conference to respond to the Arab public’s call for boycotting Israel, particularly in commercial relations. This was a violation of the PLO promise to oppose the boycott made in the September 28, 1995, Joint Declaration of the Washington Summit. Delegates to the 2004 conference also wanted to take measures to prevent Israeli companies from trying to penetrate the Iraqi market, but removed the issue from the agenda after the Iraqi delegate, Sabah al-Imam, assured the group, “there is no Israeli activity in Iraq “approved by Iraqi authorities.

Syria subsequently banned a Greek, a Danish and two Maltese ships from its ports because they’d made stops in Israeli ports, and has placed nine Israeli companies on a black list. And Libya, which had pledged to provide entry visas to all qualified participants, announced that it would not allow any Israelis to participate in the World Chess Championships in Tripoli in June 2004.102

In 2005, Saudi Arabia announced it would end its economic embargo of Israeli goods to win acceptance to the World Trade Organization.103 Nevertheless, the continued effort to isolate Israel economically and diplomatically demonstrates that many Arab states are still unwilling to recognize Israel. Until the boycott is terminated, and the Arab League members accept the existence of Israel, the prospects for regional peace will remain dim.

Notes

1Speech to AIPAC Policy Conference, (May 8, 1978).
2Reuters, (September 24, 2001).
 3Daniel Pipes, The Long Shadow: Culture and Politics in the Middle East, (NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1989), pp. 273-74.
4Reuters, (November 11, 2001).
5Michael Widlanski, Can Israel Survive A Palestinian State?, (Jerusalem: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 1990), pp. 10, 35.
6Yediot Aharonot, (November 23, 2001).
7Yediot Aharonot, (August 7, 2002).
8Ma’arivMaariv, (April 6, 2001); Interview with Dennis Ross, Fox News Sunday, (April 21, 2002); President Clinton, Press Conference, (July 25, 2000); “Camp David: An Exchange.The New York Review of Books, (September 20, 2001); Fred Barnes, “Myths of the Intifada,” The Daily Standard, (April 25, 2002).
9MSNBC, (March 26, 2002).
10Yedioth Aharonoth, (August 18, 2003).
11David Makovsky, “Taba Mythchief,” The National Interest, (February 26, 2003).
12Steven Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy from Truman to Reagan,(IL: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 358; Ariel Sharon, Warrior, (NY: Touchstone Books, 2001), pp. 400-401.
13CBC News, (August 29, 2005).
14Associated Press, (May 26, 2003).
15Herb Keinon, “Observer teams validate PA elections,” Jerusalem Post, (January 11, 2005).
16Jerusalem Post, (November 4, 2004).
17Speech by Ambassador Dennis Ross, University of Michigan, (March 13, 2005).
18Jerusalem Post, (December 2, 2004).
19Globes, (April 26, 2005).
20Haaretz, (June 7, 2005); Ynetnews.com, (September 8, 2005).
21James Bennet, “Palestinians’ Big Plans for Gaza, With a Bit of Doubt,” New York Times, (August 27, 2005).
22Herb Keinon, Matthew Gutman, and JPost staff, “Abbas: Permanent status deal could be reached in 6 months,” The Jerusalem Post, (November 15, 2005); Robin Wright, “Rice Cements Deal on Gaza Borders,”Washington Post, (November 16, 2005).
23Audiotape posted August 27, 2005, on the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades website, translated by MEMRI.
24Herb Keinon, “PA to get Gush Katif hothouses,” Jerusalem Post, (August 12, 2005).
25New York Times, (August 27, 2003).
26NBC News and MSNBC, (May 8, 2001).
27Jerusalem Post, (October 16, 2001).
28Lee Hockstader, “At Arab, Israeli Schools, Hatred Is Common Bond,” Washington Post, (September 5, 2001).
29Near East Report, (June 25, 2001); Jerusalem Post, (July 20, 2001).
29aArnon Ben-Dror, “Welcome to Camp Hamas,” Israel Defense Forces, (August 29, 2009).
30Jerusalem Post, (May 23, 2001).
31Quoted in Jerusalem Post, (July 20, 2001).
32Jerusalem Post, (May 15, 2005).
33Jerusalem Post, (May 15, 2005).
34“Germany’s Fischer: No Palestinian state if violence goes on,” Associated Press, (July 15, 2005).
35For example, Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it,” Xinhua, (April 1, 2006).
36Jerusalem Media & Communication Center, (April, 2008).
37Palestinian Authority. Note that the site is often down and the material sometimes moves or is recast as “history,” which would only be accurate if Jordan was also included as part of historical Palestine.
38Washington Post, (December 5, 2001).
39Jitka Maleckova and Alan Kreuger, “Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?”(July 2002), quoted in the Daily Star [Lebanon], (August 6, 2002).
40“Without distinction– attacks on civilians by Palestinian armed groups,” Amnesty International, (July 11, 2002).
41Jerusalem Post, (January 15, 2003).
42Anthony H. Cordesman, “Escalating to Nowhere: The Israeli-Palestinian War — The Actors in the Conflict: The Palestinian Factions That Challenge Peace and the Palestinian Authority,” (DC: CSIS, September 12, 2003), p. 35.
43International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, “Jordan Closes Hamas Offices in Amman,” (August 31, 1999); “Jordan Deports Hamas Leaders to Qatar,” (November 22, 1999); “The Jordanian Move against Hamas,” (August 31, 1999).
44Israel Radio, (August 1, 2002).
45“US Envoy Slams Palestinian Authority over Terror Attacks,” Scotsman.com, (July 14, 2004).
46Washington Post, (July 18, 2001), citing an article by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha in the New York Review of Books in which they quote the President at the Camp David summit in July 2000.
47Fox News, (January 8, 2002); USA Today, (January 10, 2002).
48Doron Almog, “Tunnel-Vision in Gaza,”, Middle East Quarterly, (Summer 2004).
49 Jerusalem Post, (August 22, September 22, 2005).
50 For example, three officials from a Palestinian faction that claimed responsibility for an attack on Israel were arrested and then released five hours later, Haaretz, (February 5, 2005).
51See, for example, CNN, (January 13, 2001); APAssociated Press, (July 31, 2001).
52Islamic Association for Palestine, (June 9, 2001).
53Neil Livingstone and David Halevy,Inside the PLO, (Readers Digest Press, 1990), pp. 276-288.
54Chicago Tribune, (March 5, 1988).
55Washington Post, (August 10, 2001).
56Hamas Covenant.See Appendix.
57Washington Post, (September 21, 2003).
58Reuters, (May 27, 1998).
59Reuters, (July 31, 2001).
59aAgence France Presse, (May 3, 2006).
59b Xinhua, (April 1, 2006); Jerusalem Post, (March 26, 2006).
60USA Today, (June 26, 2001).
61Matthew Levitt, “Hamas from Cradle to Grave,” The Middle East Quarterly, (Winter 2004).
62Washington Post, (April 6, 2002).
63Morris Abram, “Israel Under Attack: Anti-Semitism in the United Nations,” The Earth Times, (December 16-31, 1997).
64Palestinian Authority TV, (March 3, 2003).
65Palestine News Agency WAFA, (April 28, 2005).
66Palestinian Authority TV, (March 3, 2003).
67Washington Post, (September 19, 2003).
67aLis, Jonathan. “Abbas: No peace until all Palestinian prisoners released.” Haaretz (August 25, 2008).
68Ze’ev Dasberg, “Society takes precedence over the individual,” Haaretz, (November 2, 2003).
69VOA News, (February 12, 2004).
70Yair Ettinger, “Highway, fence spur growth in Wadi Ara,” Ha’aretzHaaretz, (July 14, 2004).
71Ha’aretzHaaretz, (February 13, 2002).
72Israeli Foreign Ministry.
73Wall Street Journal editorial, (September 26, 2005); Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) (October 5, 2006).
74United Nations, (May 6, 2004).
75Speech to AIPAC Policy Conference, (May 23, 1989).
76Richard Cohen, “Israel’s Day of Light,” Washington Post, (July 3, 2004).
77The Jewish Week (NY), (February 8, 2002); Jerusalem Post, (April 5, 2002).
78Washington Jewish Week, (February 14, 2002).
79Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (December 30, 2002).
80Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (February 3, 2004).
81Maariv, (November 24, 2004).
82“PA bulldozers begin razing remaining Gaza synagogues,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2005).
83Herb Keinon, “Cabinet votes not to dismantle Gaza synagogues,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2005).
84Herb Keinon, “Cabinet votes not to dismantle Gaza synagogues,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2005).
85Yoav Stern, “PA to raze synagogues, spokesman says,” Ha’aretzHaaretz, (September 12, 2005).
86Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA, Hamas defend synagogue razing,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2005).
87“PA bulldozers begin razing remaining Gaza synagogues,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2005).
88Radio Damascus, (March 8, 1974).
89Jerusalem Post, (July 16, 1994).
90Washington Times, (July 30, 1990).
91Yediot Aharonot, (January 14, 2005).
92Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, “Joint Declaration for Keeping the Water Infrastructure out of the Cycle of Violence,“,” (January 31, 2001).
93Mideast Mirror, (October 7, 1991).
94Washington Post, (September 10, 1995).
95Washington Post, (August 6, 2001).
96New York Times, (January 27, 2002).
97Quoted in Gulf News, (December 28, 2002).
98Kenneth Timmerman, “Hamas’ Friends,Australia/Israel Review, (June 2002), p. 13.
99Washington Post, (April 2 and 12, 2002).
100Matthew Levitt, “A Hamas Headquarters in Saudi Arabia?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, (September 28, 2005).
101APAssociated Press, SANA, (April 26, 2004).
102Jerusalem Post, (May 5, 2004); APAssociated Press, (May 8, 2004).
103“Saudi Arabia lifts Israel embargo,” Jerusalem Post, (November 15, 2005).


See also: Israel
U.S.-Israel Relations
Peace Process

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