Israelis have constantly strived for peace and have long recognized the need to share historic Palestine. The issue remains the Palestinian and Arab readiness to unconditionally accept Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish state.
Israel’s commitment to peace was expressed in the Declaration of Independence (May 14, 1948): “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.” Within hours, Arab armies invaded Israel, vowing its destruction.
Israel offered to cede territory captured in its defensive war of June 1967, in exchange for peace. The Arab League responded with the “Three No’s” of the Khartoum Summit: “no peace, no recognition, no negotiation with Israel.”
In May 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon in compliance with UN resolutions. Lebanon did not fulfill its UN obligations to disarm and dislodge Hezbollah. Instead, Hezbollah joined the Lebanese government and deployed Iranian missiles in the south. Nearly 4000 of those missiles were fired on Israeli civilians in the 2006 war.
At Camp David (2000) Ehud Barak proposed Palestinian statehood in Gaza, up to 97% of the West Bank and half of Jerusalem. Instead of making a counter-offer, Yasser Arafat launched a new intifada targeting Israeli civilians. In 2005 Israelis agonizingly withdrew from Gaza. In response, Gaza was flooded with smuggled weapons, Hamas was elected to head the Palestinian government, an Israeli soldier was kidnapped, Hamas routed Fatah in a civil war in Gaza, and Qassam missiles were fired daily from Gaza onto Sderot.
The Annapolis Conference (November 27, 2007) marked the latest effort to nudge Israelis and Palestinians towards a negotiated two-state settlement, the basic terms of which are already known and accepted in principle by Israelis. Such a settlement may only be possible once a Palestinian leadership fulfills its obligations to end terror and establish a culture of democratic governance and once the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Arab world, unconditionally accepts Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish state.