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The farce of Israeli ‘confidence building’ measures

The recent kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers near Hebron should give pause. Israel has named as suspects Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eisha, who are members of Hamas, the U.S.- and European Union-listed terrorist group that calls in its charter for the worldwide killing of Jews. Hamas, recently incorporated into the Fatah-Palestinian Authority (PA) regime, is still receiving U.S taxpayer funding.

Given these circumstances, Israel needs to put an end to its concessionary policy of “confidence-building measures” — removing security checkpoints and roadblocks, and freeing convicted and jailed Palestinian terrorists as demanded by the PA — especially if it emerges that the absence of checkpoints enabled the terrorists to carry out the killings.

That some terrorist acts have been facilitated in this way is beyond argument. The January 2010 killing of Israeli Meir Chai by Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, occurred during a Palestinian terrorist attack made possible by the removal of a road closure and checkpoint, part of “confidence-building measures” previously urged upon Israel by the Obama administration.

In April 2010, then-U.S. envoy George J. Mitchell again urged Israel to “make a number of gestures to Palestinians, including release of prisoners, removal of checkpoints, transfer of authority over West Bank territories.” Israel acceded to President Obama’s wishes — and that August, Palestinians terrorists killed four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, also near Hebron. The attackers escaped the scene via a route opened by the removal of a checkpoint — part of the “number of gestures” Mr. Mitchell had urged upon the Israelis.

Western governments, including the Obama administration, are continually tantalized at the prospect of renewed negotiations, and the PA has adroitly succeeded in recent years in making Israeli concessions a condition of their resumption. International leaders have willingly obliged.

Here, for example, is a news item from February 2012 about U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “The U.N. chief urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make ‘goodwill gestures’ to bring the Palestinians back to direct negotiations, frozen since September 2010.”

Note that, in such cases, Israelis are not being asked to make these “gestures” in return for anything, merely so that PA will deign to speak to them from across a table. In other words, the intended “gestures” are unilateral Israeli concessions. Unfortunately, peace has never been facilitated by Israeli unilateral concessions. Quite the contrary.

The 2005 unilateral evacuation of Gaza and eviction of its Jewish residents was received by senior PA official Muhammad Dahlan thus: “The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a victory for the Palestinian people’s will. The withdrawal should take place without an agreement and with no political gains [for Israel].” Rocket assaults on Israel from Gaza increased exponentially.

In 2009 came what Hillary Clinton described as “unprecedented” Israeli unilateral concessions at the behest of Mr. Obama: a 10-month unilateral freeze on the construction of Jewish homes in the West Bank. The result? The PA declined to resume talks until almost the very end of this period, only to almost immediately break them off and demand a permanent freeze — something that had never been a feature of previous Israeli-Palestinian talks.

In October 2011, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds of convicted terrorists — in exchange for kidnapped Israeli serviceman Gilad Shalit. Then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal greeted this, not as a step on the road to peace, but as a great victory over Israel. Note that this was not even a unilateral concession, but a negotiated one, and that it was not welcomed as a laudable effort to bring peace closer, but an act of weakness heralding eventual Israeli defeat.

There is no sign that the United States wishes to take note. Indeed, the Obama administration pressured Israel during the past year into agreeing to free 104 convicted, blood-soaked terrorists, just to get the PA to the table. It brought no real talks, no Palestinian reform or concessions, only a Fatah-Hamas regime.

The conclusion is clear: Israeli concessions that are divorced from a genuine process of give-and-take cause harm. They bolster a Palestinian entitlement mentality that militates not only against moderation, but in favor of hardening positions.

Internationally, unilateral Israeli concessions enable the misapprehension that Palestinians have done all they need do, and that the ball is in Israel’s court. The only confidence they can inspire is the certainty that more Israelis will be killed.

Indeed, merely to talk of the need for Israeli “confidence-building measures” serves to keep the real issues of Palestinian rejection, terrorism and incitement off the agenda. Where Israeli concessions do not occur or are rejected, the conclusion is that the Israelis, rather than the Palestinians, are unwilling to do what is necessary to make peace. This is a dangerous and tragic farce in which Israel should refuse further participation.

Daniel Mandel is director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of “H.V. Evatt and the Creation of Israel” (Routledge, 2004).

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