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How the Palestinian Leaders contributed to the disastrous Israeli occupation

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 21 July 2023

Although the 56-year-old Israeli occupation cannot be justified under any circumstances, Palestinian leaders have greatly contributed to its disastrous continuation. Notwithstanding their misguided policies over the years which have subjected four generations to a life of misery and hopelessness in pursuit of a delusional goal of destroying Israel, the Palestinians' right to establish their own independent state cannot be denied

For the past 75 years, the Palestinians have raised four generations of youth who, like their counterparts in Israel and other advanced countries, aspired to grow, flourish, and realize their dreams while contributing to their country's prosperity and growth. They have failed not because they are incapable, or less talented, or unworthy of success. They have failed because of Palestinian leaders' shortsightedness, misguided policies, and unwillingness to accept Israel's ineliminable reality. As such, they have played directly into Israel's hands over the years by threatening its very existence through frequent violent resistance, which allowed Israel to 'rationalize and justify' the occupation while expanding its foothold throughout the West Bank.

Failed leadership

The Palestinian leadership have over the years stuck to their dead-end delusional pipe dreams to destroy Israel. Seventy-five years after the Partition Plan and the establishment of the State of Israel, they still have nothing to show for their struggle other than the continued desperation and despondency of the Palestinian populace. Instead of engaging in nation building, Palestinian leaders squandered their human and material resources while preparing their people for the next round of hostilities against Israel. The goal of destroying Israel became their mantra, the broken record with which they succeeded only in creating a public mindset that regards Israel as the culprit behind their plight.


The prolongation of the conflict simply served their personal political interests to consolidate power; even though their strategy of resistance failed, they still refuse to reevaluate their policy, which has been detrimental to their cause and made the conflict ever more intractable.

The saddest part of the Palestinian leadership's shortcomings was their failure to attend to their people's needs. The people have heard the empty promise that once Israel is defeated, they would be free, safe, prosperous, and at peace for decades, and if anything has changed, it changed for the worse. Millions of Palestinians are still languishing in refugee camps while being brainwashed by their leaders to view Israel as an implacable enemy that must be resisted until victory. The public's yearning for well-paying jobs, opportunities for upward mobility, better education and healthcare, and the prospect for growth and prosperity has become an elusive dream, while despair is all too real.

One would think that after 56 years of occupation, which began in 1967 after the Six Day War, Palestinian leaders, the extremists in particular, would have learned that their strategy of resistance to bring about Israel's destruction was nothing but disastrous. Israel continues to exist and has become ever more powerful and prosperous while expanding its foothold by building settlements throughout the West Bank, while the establishment of a Palestinian state has become increasingly tenuous.

Missing opportunities to make peace

From the time Israel was established in 1948, Palestinian leaders missed repeated opportunities to make peace. The late Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban put it succinctly when he stated the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." It will suffice here to name only a few that no one can dispute.

First, while Israel accepted the 1947 Partition Plan (UNSC Resolution 194), the Palestinians rejected it and instead joined the war against Israel alongside seven Arab states which ended soundly in defeat, creating a massive refugee problem while Israel succeeded in conquering more Palestinian land.

Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Palestinians turned down Israel's offer to return all the territories captured (the West Bank and Gaza) in exchange for peace, with the exception of the final status of Jerusalem. In 1977, the Palestinians rejected an invitation to join the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations, which could have resulted in the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.


Instead of building on the 1993 Oslo Accords at Camp David in 2000, the Palestinians missed another historic opportunity when Chairman Yasser Arafat walked away at the last minute as a comprehensive peace agreement was afoot. Finally, in 2007-2008 the Palestinians walked away from negotiations, this time because of a disagreement over the percentages of land swaps.

The most violent uprising-the Second Intifada-erupted in 2000, which stunned the Israelis and was a turning point of historical proportion. Since then, successive Israeli governments largely led by Likud concluded that the Palestinians simply do not want peace, and the appetite for annexing more territory has become increasingly insatiable. Netanyahu himself stated that there will not be a Palestinian state under his watch, refusing to relinquish a single inch of territory.

Using the Palestinian refugees as a political tool For more than seven decades, Palestinian leaders made the refugee problem front and center in the conflict with Israel. They have methodically engaged in narratives that imbued their public with the notion that the refugees' right of return is sine qua non to any solution, albeit knowing full well that Israel would only allow the return of a few thousand under family reunification.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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