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Palestinians’ rejection of incomplete peace offers counterproductive

May 26,2018 - Last updated at May 26,2018

Critics of the Palestinian leadership claim that three former Israeli prime ministers, namely Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinians peace plans that could have led to the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank by up to 97 to 98 per cent of the Palestinian territory.

The sticking point in all theses incomplete Israeli offers was the status of East Jerusalem, which Israel, under all of its leaders, refused to budge on it and the Palestinian side would not sign any peace treaty with Israel without restoring East Jerusalem to the Palestinian sovereignty.

These critics also recall the Palestinian rejection of the UN 1947 partition plan of former Palestine as also hasty and irresponsible, because that rejection facilitated the implementation of the Israeli designs on Palestinian territories that fell beyond Israel's share of Palestine under the Partition Plan.

These charges are only partially correct because they fail to comprehend the depth of the Palestinian attachment to all their lands in Palestine, and even more importantly the significance of the status of East Jerusalem in any livable peace plan with Israel.

As a matter of fact, Jordan failed to reach a peace treaty with Israel throughout the era when the West Bank was still part of Jordan because of the refusal of Israel to concede sovereignty over it to Jordan.

No Palestinian leadership would have survived a week if it signed a peace treaty, even if it entailed a complete withdrawal from the West Bank, if it did not include the restoration of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Arguably, the Palestinians should not have rejected the UN partition plan, but this is only an abstract and academic proposition that lacks a lasting effect since Jewish leaders at the time had no intention of stopping their encroachments on parts of Palestine allotted to the Palestinian people under the UN plan in any case.

That said, saying no to imperfect solutions offered Israel more opportunities to accelerate their grip on more and more Palestinian lands. Policymakers on the Palestinian side should think in relative terms and maybe, just maybe, adopt the late Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba's advice to the Palestinians in the early fifties to accept imperfect solutions and then ask for more.

Many pundits would question the viability of any such proposition, and maybe they are. Yet, facilitating the ultimate Israeli designs on East Jerusalem and the West Bank by rejecting every incomplete offer of peace could be counterproductive.

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