By Curtis Pontz
Was Israel justifiably and justly created as the place to which the Jewish people were able to return in 1948 to reestablish and perpetuate a Jewish state? This is the critical issue if one believes, as I do, that the very fact of Israel’s existence has served as the impetus for the rejection by the Palestinians of the seemingly countless efforts toward conflict resolution.
Yet those involved in the peace-making process have failed to take into account the underlying obstacle to reaching a meaningful accommodation between the two sides: the well-documented historic refusal of the Palestinians to accept the legitimacy and existence of the sovereign Jewish state.
Without acceptance by the Palestinians of the legitimacy and existence of Israel, there can be no practical path to a negotiated peace. For them to do so the Palestinians must first be convinced that the establishment of the modern state of Israel was both justifiable and just.
Why do so many of those interested in formulating a road to peace fail to cite the unwillingness of the Palestinians to accept Israel’s legitimacy as the major element in perpetuating the impasse? In order to break the stranglehold this stance has had upon the peace process, proponents of peace must acknowledge and confront what is at the core of the conflict. Only by eliminating the Palestinians’ resistance to the acceptance of the continuing presence of Israel in its present location can a reasonable pathway to a negotiated peace be realized.
What is the evidence that Israel’s establishment was justifiable and just, which would, in effect, undermine the Palestinians’ refusal to accept the presence of Jews on land the Palestinians insist belongs solely to the Islamic and Arab worlds?
The fact of the continuous Jewish presence in the land of Palestine for more than 3,000 years inevitably leads to the determination that the Jews are indigenous to the land of Palestine. This point is key because it is a principle of international law that Indigenous people have the right to possess any territory in which they naturally originated, with all the implications that principle carries for the right of the Jews to possess at least a portion of the land in dispute.
That is why the Palestinians have expended so much effort over the years to formulate a narrative denying the historical Jewish connection to the Holy Land.
Furthermore, although Zionism can be a thorny subject for some, Zionism was not an evil undertaking aimed at coercing the Palestinian Arabs into submission. The validity of Zionism was accepted and supported by international institutions that recognized the right of the Jews to national self-determination based on historical ties to their homeland.
What more supportive evidence could one want in order to prove the justifiability and justness of Israel’s creation than the sequence of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the mandate for Palestine approved by the League of Nations in 1923, Article 80 of the UN Charter and the 1947 vote of the UN General Assembly favoring partition of the territory of Palestine?
Israel’s founding was based on a foundation no less strong than what has legitimized the creation of most other countries. And that strong foundation also reflects as much legal weight, as represented by instruments of international law, as does the right to exist of most other nations.
Call me naive for believing that convincing the Palestinians that the creation of modern Israel was justifiable and just will offer the promise of ending the long-standing Palestinian rejection of Israel’s existence. Perhaps the effort will prove futile, but it must be resolutely pursued. I am confident that once the Palestinians accept the Jewish people’s right to their own nation, which means agreeing to share the land of Palestine with the Jews, the great majority of Israeli Jews will fall in line with Palestinian aspirations for nationhood, and solutions to the contentious issues that will need to be ironed out to produce an enduring peace agreement will be settled upon.
The alternative is that peace will remain a vain hope.
Curtis Pontz is the author of “The Stranglehold: How to Break the Palestinians’ Unyielding Grip on the Middle East Peace Process.”