March/April 2000

The Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian Authority:
Ultimatums in Perspective

by Aaron Lerner

A troubling poll result

Instead of telling you what I think Israeli Arabs think, I would like to share with you what a representative sample of 500 Israeli Arabs told pollsters last November in a survey carried out by Dr. Assad Ganem of the Institute For Peace Studies at Givat Haviva.

Which of the following options would you choose as a solution to the problem of the Arabs in Israel?

24.8% Replace Israel with a Palestinian state.

62.2% Israel ceases to be a Jewish Zionist state and the Jews and Arabs will be recognized as different groups.

8.2% Israel will continue to be a Jewish Zionist state and Arabs in Israel will enjoy democratic rights and receive their relative share in the budgets and manage their educational, religious and cultural institutions.

That's right. The overwhelming majority of Israeli Arab REJECT Israel continuing to be a Jewish Zionist state EVEN if they enjoy democratic rights and receive their relative share in the budgets and manage their educational, religious and cultural institutions. This in no way means that the Israeli Arabs should not enjoy democratic rights or their fair share. The survey however does indicate, and I say this with a heavy heart, that this will not satisfy them.

The five "Nos"

In the official negotiations taking place in the States, the PA has presented a document laying out it's five "red lines," an apparent response to recent statements by Barak in support of annexing settlements. The document was described in the Palestinian press as the "Five Nos" - a play on the infamous "three nos" after the 1967 Six-Day War. The PA demands that Israel withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders, including from east Jerusalem. The PA will not accept any Jewish settlements, nor will it put off discussion of any of the final-status issues like Jerusalem and refugees, or accept a partial framework deal. The document also rejects any solution that would accommodate Palestinian refugees outside their homeland, and rejects any Israeli military presence inside the Palestinian state (eg. No Israeli presence on the Jordan River).

The Palestinians complain that there has been no progress in the talks because Israel hasn't bowed to the 5 Nos.

The Palestinians make it clear that if they do not get what they want via negotiations that they will pursue other goals via other means.

And the Israeli response? Israel recently transferred another 200 assault rifles to the PA and another 100 are on the way.

The Palestinians speak with a clear voice and all I hear from our government is mumbling about "hard sacrifices" and "difficult decisions".

When it comes to domestic policies, Barak's clumsy poor planning and administration is plainly obvious because our economy and society in general is already paying a dear price in the form of crippling stupid job actions, unemployment and a mindless series of emergency measures - some of which will actually increase rather than decrease unemployment.

In many ways the fog that surrounds negotiations with the Arabs makes it a far more friendly environment for the incompetent since the glaring mistakes may only really become known to the public at the end of the talks. As long as the ball is still in the air there is always room for the benefit of doubt that maybe - just maybe - what may be reckless stupidity is actually a carefully designed maneuver.

One thing is certain: That it is incumbent on the Barak Administration to get the message out that the PA's Five Nos are the true obstacles to peace. President Clinton should understand that all the American bridge proposals in the world can't deliver Arafat even one of his Five Nos.

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