Updated: February 24, 2012 8:00AM
Buried in news stories about the conviction on a former president of Israel on rape charges was a telling insight into the Jewish state: The three-judge panel that convicted Moshe Katsav and the three-judge tribunal that rejected his appeal each had a justice who is an Israeli Arab.
Arabs make up 20 percent of the population of Israel, and, as the Katsav story indicates, they are able to play prominent roles in the country’s governmental life, including service in the Knesset.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews live in communities in the disputed West Bank territories. To Israelis, the West Bank is known as Judea and Samaria, reflecting its crucial role in the ancient and modern history of the Jewish people. If a peace settlement is ever reached — a big if given the history of Palestinian intransigence — could some Jews living in the West Bank choose to opt to remain and pursue their lives under a new Palestinian state?
No, according to Maen Rashid Areikat, the representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the United States. In a recent meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, he condemned the Jewish residents of the West Bank — he put the number at 550,000 — as unlawful settlers and declared that all of them must leave as part of any Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
Areikat did acknowledge that a settlement would involve “minor” land swaps that could incorporate some of the communities in Israel. And he did say that at some point in the future, Jews might live in a new Palestinian state.
But a settlement would require Jews living in the Palestinian-governed West Bank to leave. In other words, a peace deal will be followed by ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, where Jewish history is measured in millennia and where Jews had lived before being expelled in the Arab world’s 1948 war to destroy Israel. An Israeli victory in the 1967 war returned Jews to Judea and Samaria, and to eastern Jerusalem where they could again pray at the Western Wall, forbidden by Jordan during the Arab occupation after 1948.
Areikat painted a glowing picture of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, as accepting Israel’s right to exist. After he several times insisted the Palestinian Authority, as opposed to Hamas, the terrorists ruling the Gaza Strip, had accepted Israel, I referred to him a recent article in the Palestinian Authority newspaper by the authority’s ambassador to India. Adli Sadeq wrote that Israelis “have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah [the PLO’s main political party] accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist.”
The translation came from the Palestinian Media Watch. Areikat made vague comments about the ambassador’s writing, dismissed PMW founder Itamar Marcus as a biased settler, and offered to provide extreme statements from Israelis. Suggesting a mistranslation, he said he would get back to me about the article. It’s been several weeks, I haven’t heard from him.
Areikat made other suspect statements. He said the source of Israeli distrust of the Palestinians was not decades of Palestinian terrorism but the history of Western anti-Semitism. He said the “golden age” of Jews in the Holy Land was the medieval time of Islamic rule under Saladin. I think Jews might cite the time of King David or another Biblical era in their history.