He writes in The New York Times, “No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.”
Even if that were true, what would the Palestinians do if Israel offered them an independent state? Here’s a message for Ban: Israel offered them an independent state at Camp David in the summer of 2000 — the Gaza Strip, 93 percent of the West Bank, and part of Jerusalem. At the time, Prime Minister Ehud Barak — with President Clinton’s support — proposed this plan to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. And there were more informal future offers as well.
Arafat rejected the proposal and facilitated a war that took more than 1,000 lives, while Israelis voted out Barak and launched a 16-year pattern of electing right-leaning coalitions in the Knesset.
There are different theories as to why Arafat turned down the proposal. I suspect he believed that dominant segments of the Palestinian population would accept nothing short of Israel’s destruction, and he feared that his own people would murder him if he dared accept any reasonable deal.
So, Arabs demanded the end of “occupation” before Camp David, and they persist in demanding an end to “occupation” today. Such reasoning may make sense to Ban, but the secretary-general of the United Nations must explain what Israel is supposed to do after offering the Arabs exactly what they asked for in the past and what they continue to demand today.
In addition, Jewish leaders have blasted Ban for his suggestion in a recent speech that the “occupation” factored into driving Palestinians to violence, particularly the relentless stabbing assaults against Israelis in recent months. He dug a deeper hole for himself in his aforementioned New York Times commentary, headlined, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel.”
Besides using “occupation” as an excuse once again, Ban advanced a series of truisms in that article that only the most irrational people would dispute — and, it is irrational people who have blocked all ideas for compromise from becoming reality in that region for over a century. For example, regarding the current situation, he writes that “the United Nations is calling for substantial changes in policy to strengthen the economic, institutional and security pillars of the Palestinian Authority.”
Who can argue with that?
And, he says, “We continue to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to rebuild Gaza and prevent another devastating conflict, and to press Palestinians for genuine national reconciliation.”
Onward: “Palestinians must make political compromises to bring Gaza and the West Bank under a single, democratic governing authority according to principles laid down by their national umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
Then: “This also means consistently and firmly denouncing terrorism and taking preventive action to end attacks on Israelis, including an immediate stop to Gaza tunnel construction.”
Ban neglects to mention in these passages that the Palestinian Authority has long been consumed by a bottomless pit of corruption, that Gaza is vulnerable to further destruction each time Hamas targets Israel with rockets and missiles, that Fatah and Hamas despise one another as much as one or both factions despise Israel (Fatah controls the West Bank, and Hamas dominates Gaza), that Fatah has routinely encouraged aggression against Israel, and that Hamas is dedicated to building hundreds of tunnels.
Not only is the U.N. chief ignoring these realities on the ground, but also, his views on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis are not exactly fresh. Many leaders and observers have been sharing these approaches in many different forms for decades. If Ban wanted to try something new, he would tell the world how to accomplish these goals, and then, he would take action.
Isn’t that why the United Nations was created?