This past week, the Israelis arrested 25 Hamas terrorists in the West Bank, most of them students from Al-Quds University in Abu Dis. Not rebels without a cause or the unemployed with a chip on their shoulder, but the finest minds we have, the intellectuals of the future Palestinian academia! The group, which dealt with recruiting and guidance and was being handled by Hamas in Turkey and its terrorist wing the Gaza Strip, was planning to carry out suicide bombing attacks inside Israel.
The leaders of the terror cell arranged safe houses and storage sites, where they set up laboratories to manufacture explosives. They recruited Palestinians -- from Bethlehem, Hebron, Qalqilya and even from Jerusalem, as well as Arabs from the Israeli Negev -- to acquire the chemicals and other equipment necessary for making car bombs for these students, who were getting ready to die as suicide bombers.
The Israeli security forces uncovered the network and arrested its operatives, who had also been influenced by the Palestinian Authority's non-stop incitement of the Palestinian population. The Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to sacrifice our best and brightest to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews.
Unfortunately, recent events herald the end of the concept of establishing an independent state for the Palestinian people. The cracks in the wall of Palestinian history -- which is barely a hundred years old -- are growing wider. The attempts to repair the fabric of Palestinian society with neon colors are a failure. There is also internal friction among the various Salafist organizations (Hamas, ISIS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and the PLO and Fatah and other West Bank terrorist organizations.
There is also the issue of inheritance: which organization will control the PLO? What are the differences in their agendas? The Hamas leadership in Gaza wants first to reconstruct the Gaza Strip and then renew the fighting with Israel. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military-terrorist wing, demands the immediate renewal of attacks and rocket fire against Israel. Both are trying to establish new terrorist networks in the West Bank (like the one recently uncovered). The double objective of both groups is to kill Israelis and topple the Palestinian Authority.
We Palestinians seem incapable of agreeing on even the most basic productive and constructive issues, such as rebuilding houses, education, an intelligent use of the hundreds of millions of dollars received as donations, opening the Rafah crossing and improving relations with the Arab world, especially Egypt. The greatest tragedy of the Palestinians is not 1948, it is 2015. The only thing the Palestinian leadership and terrorist organizations can agree on is their obsession to destroy the State of Israel and establish a Palestinian state on the ruins; and even there, they cannot agree on the ways, stages and means.
As long as the Palestinians thought they could get what they wanted through negotiations and intransigence, they concealed their true intentions. Recently, however, when it became clear the Israelis would not waive their demand for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or their determined objection to the right of return, Palestinian extremism came out of hiding. That is evident from the results consistently obtained by opinion polls, carried out by Palestinian polling centers, which show that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians support an armed campaign against Israel, and want to see it destroyed and the state of Palestine built on its ruins. The polls also show a troubling increase in popular support in the West Bank for Hamas, and a decrease in support for Mahmoud Abbas and the PA because of their inability to restore all of "occupied Palestine" to the Palestinians.
I wish we Palestinians were only smart enough to learn from the history of the Jews instead of totally rejecting them. We would immediately rid ourselves of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations. But instead we use them, because they kill Jews.
Unfortunately, the late Yasser Arafat thought it would be easier to force the Jews to make concessions if the negotiations were held in an atmosphere of terrorist attacks and to that end, he subcontracted to Hamas.
Hamas, like Frankenstein's monster, grew to become a large terrorist organization, now threatening not just Israel but the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. In consequence, we are forced to collaborate with the Israelis if we want to survive and avoid being swallowed whole by Hamas, as we were in Gaza. That is why the threats from the Palestinian Authority to stop intelligence collaboration with Israel are nonsense. As our rhetoric becomes more and more extremist, some Palestinians suffer from a passive desire to submit to Hamas, and fewer and fewer people dare to challenge Hamas instead of rejecting both it and the Muslim Brotherhood, and gaining the trust of wider, far more powerful backer: the world, the West, and even in some ways the Israelis. We are, instead, soaking up Hamas's destructive extremism. We allow Hamas to brainwash our younger generation with its fanatic -- and unproductive -- web of hate, destruction and death.
The Palestinian leadership has not yet internalized the bitter consequences of our fruitless terrorist attacks against Israel. The leadership uses its media to spread false propaganda about knives, stone-throwing and car ramming attacks, along with threats of another intifada. They do not realize that nothing will move the Israelis. Nothing will make them leave; nothing will make them give up one inch of land -- certainly not terrorism. That only strengthens their resolve. We keep making the awful and perhaps irreparable mistake of educating our children, generation after generation, to hate the Jews and Israelis and to want to destroy the State of Israel. At the same time, we can see that the Israelis and the Americans follow our every move, and document our hate propaganda. Little by little, our credibility is shredded as they lose their trust.
We broadcast children's programs promoting violence and hate on government-funded -- and government-run -- Palestinian TV, and at the same time expect the Israelis to make concessions to us that will compromise their security. How stupid is that? Then we continually brainwash viewers with the nonsense that, with the help of Allah, the State of Israel is temporary and will eventually cease to exist. Whom or what should the Israelis trust? The elderly Mahmoud Abbas, without support in his own country, waiting until the younger generation, brought up on hatred and war, pushes him out? We have the program "Children Speak," which declared on November 11, 2015, with absolute certainty, that Israel's end was just around the corner and that all the land of Palestine from 1948, "from the River to the Sea," including Israeli cities such as Haifa, Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth, "belong to us" and "will return to us." If you were the Israeli government, you would be suspicious too.
It is therefore mystifying why Greece's parliament would now symbolically (non-bindingly) recognize a Palestinian State -- thereby pushing actual Palestinian statehood farther away than ever. Abbas doubtless goes around trying to pick up such worthless endorsements, no doubt hoping that if he manages to bundle enough of them, stacks of internationally binding agreements will be bypassed and an actual Palestinian state, with no need for any concessions, might magically spring up.
Has no one in the intelligence services of either country noticed that, according to Palestinian TV (December 4, 2015),
some of the Palestinians who have lived on Palestinian land since 1948 did not leave and now defend the land from the abuse of the "racist occupation." The very fact that they still live on our land, despite the occupation's full control, means they preserve Palestinian existence and guard the land as Palestinian, and believe all the land will return to Palestinian control and be part of the state of Palestine.
Ahem. "The Palestinians who have lived on Palestinian land since 1948" are what the rest of the world calls "Israeli Arabs."
The above are two examples of official Palestinian propaganda spread by the Palestinian leadership, media and educational system throughout the Palestinian territories every hour of every day. According to Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, the official Palestinian newspaper, on December 10, 2015, Jihad Jayyusi, the Palestinian Authority's military liaison officer, visited a creative writing class in the Al-Awda girls' school in Bethlehem, and presented them with a plaque of "Palestine," which now includes all the territory of the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the same newspaper, on November 17, 2015, the prize in a photography contest held by the PLO's "prisoner department" was a map of "Palestine," which included the same territories.
Palestinian Authority leaders, official television, schools and media outlets often display maps showing Palestine stretching from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. The maps do not show the existence of Israel.
It is particularly disappointing that we keep trying to defraud the Israelis and Americans with fictitious messages of peace and "two states for two peoples." We assume they have no intelligence at all, do not understand Arabic and cannot read our Facebook pages, including the page of the Palestinian national security forces, where Acre and Jaffa are called "occupied." We assume that Westerners never read Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, which on November 30, 2015, published a picture of two keys and a map of "Palestine" that included all the Israeli and Palestinian territories and read, "A memory that does not rust" -- or if they do read it, that they do not understand what they are looking at.
If there is to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the first step is for the Palestinians to coordinate their own expectations. Our leaders have to understand that the Middle East arena is in a constant state of flux, that descendants of the 1948 refugees clearly will never "return" to the State of Israel, Jerusalem will never be the capital of a state of Palestine, and we will never control the Jordan Valley (because of Israel's unfortunately justified security concerns).
In addition, in a world staggering under the burden of Islamist terrorism, Palestinian terrorism is likely, over time, only to strengthen the West's support for Israel's security and existence.
We should have understood a long time ago that Jews exist in Palestine, that they are here to stay forever, and that murdering them in the streets is not going to change anything. The time has come to try creating -- for the first time in history -- a peaceful and demilitarized Palestinian state, which the Israelis have indicated for decades they would be all too happy to help us achieve. I hope and pray we are not already too late.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East