The response of the Palestinian Authority leadership to Binyamin Netanyahu's speech, in which he outlined his vision for peace in the Middle East, came even before the Israeli prime minister concluded his address.

Some of the statements issued by top leaders of the Palestinian Authority were handed over to reporters even before Netanyahu began his address at Bar Ilan University. So it didn't really matter what Netanyahu was going to say because, as far as the Palestinian leadership is concerned, the only solution is for Israel to accept ALL their demands.


The response, of course, was no and no.


No to Netanyahu's offer of a demilitarized Palestinian state and no to his demand that the Palestinians - and the rest of the Arabs and Muslims - recognize Israel as a state for the Jewish people.


With regard to Netanyahu's demand that they recognize Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people, the Palestinian leadership is pretending to be naïve. Israel has the right to define itself as it wishes the same as the Palestinians are entitled, for example, to call their future state the Islamic Republic of Palestine.


This negative attitude demonstrates that the Palestinian leadership has once again decided to look at the empty half of the cup.


The idea of establishing a demilitarized state is not necessarily bad for the Palestinians. Why would Palestine need tanks and warplanes? Don't the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip already have enough ammunition and light weapons, including tens of thousands of automatic rifles?


Palestine would not need an army and weapons when there is peace in the Middle East. Its leaders would have to focus their efforts on building good government, infrastructure and civil society. A strong and capable police force is enough to maintain law and order.


Isn't the Gaza Strip already full of different types of rockets, missiles and mortars that were -and continue to be - smuggled through a vast network of underground tunnels running along the border with Egypt?


And don't the Palestinians already have enough security forces and militias? At one point, the Palestinians had more than a dozen security forces - more than any of their neighbors.


Even if Palestine had its own army in the future, who exactly is it going to fight against? Does any Palestinian seriously think that a tiny army would be able to invade Israel, whose forces defeated several Arab armies combined?


Weapons, security forces and militias have only wrought disaster on the Palestinians.  In the late 60's and early 70's, the PLO's weapons and armed gangs resulted in a bloodbath in Jordan when the late King Hussein decided to crush the Palestinians' attempt to create a state within a state in his kingdom.


Similarly, the PLO's weapons and multiple security forces and militias contributed to the eruption of a civil war in Lebanon that claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.


The mere fact that Netanyahu said he was willing to accept a Palestinian state is in itself a major development that should have been welcomed by the Palestinian leaders sitting in Ramallah. Netanyahu's stance could have served as a starting point for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians over the nature of the proposed state, including its future borders.


Besides, Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to raise the idea of a demilitarized state. All his predecessors over the past decade have openly talked about a Palestine that would not have an army or heavy weapons. Even Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert made the same offer. Former US President Bill Clinton mentioned the idea during and after the botched Camp David summit in the summer of 2000.


True, the Palestinian leadership also then rejected the idea of a demilitarized state. But there's a certain degree of hypocrisy when officials in Ramallah say that they were "surprised" to hear Netanyahu talk about the idea.


Again, this is not the first time that the Palestinians hear from an Israeli leader about the Jews' desire to define Israel as a Jewish state.


The Palestinian leadership's reaction was so fierce that some of its senior representatives went as far as hurling personal insults against Netanyahu, calling him a "fraud," a "nobody" and a "liar."


By totally rejecting Netanyahu's call for demilitarized state and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinian leadership has once again played into the hands of those who argue that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The Palestinians should have taken whatever they're offered and from there pursue negotiations with Israel over additional demands they might have.


Otherwise, why should anyone bother holding negotiations? As far as the Palestinian representatives in Ramallah are concerned, all Israel has to do is accept all their demands and conditions if it wants to live in peace and security.





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