DP: I want you all and my guest to hear, this is an example. This is from five hours ago, an Associated Press report. “Obama criticizes new Israeli move on settlements. President Obama,” the dateline is Beijing, where the President has been, “President Obama says Israel’s latest move to build hundreds of new apartments in a neighborhood claimed by the Palestinians complicates administration efforts to re-launch peace talks, and embitters the Palestinians.” And at the bottom of it, it says, “this version corrects the first sentence to say apartments instead of settlements.” The first Associated Press report said build hundreds of new settlements, which is going to go around the world, of course, as if one apartment is equal to a settlement, and as if that is the issue. And my guest is Khaled Toameh, who is the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and U.S. News & World Report. That is, that’s typical of what the world says. Israeli settlements, that’s the great impediment to peace. What’s your take?
KT: You know, Dennis, sometimes I say I really wish that the settlements were the biggest obstacles to peace, because we’ve seen in the past that when Israel wants, it can dismantle settlements. It can evict Jewish settlers from areas. It has happened at least twice or three times in the past. It happened with Egypt, and then it happened in the Gaza Strip, and it happened in some parts of the West Bank. Settlements are something that can be removed. They can be changed. As such, I wish they were the major obstacle to peace. The major obstacle to peace today is the fact that we don’t have any partner on the Palestinian side. The last time, if it were really about settlements, we would have seen peace prevail after Israel left Gaza. Israel removed more than 8,000 Jewish settlers, destroyed more than 30 Jewish settlements in Gaza, in the summer of 2005. Did you see peace prevail there? Did you see anyone who took to the streets and danced in support of Israel? Did the Palestinians wake up and sing Hatikva, the Israeli National Anthem? That didn’t happen. So it’s not really about settlements. As I said before, it’s really about Israel’s very existence in that part of the world. Many Palestinians want to live in peace, but living in peace does not necessarily mean that you want to make peace with Israel. And there is a distinction. We should draw the distinction between these two things. The fact that people want to live in peace does not necessarily mean that you can really make peace with Israel. Otherwise, you know, we could just remove all the settlements, and who said there’s going to be peace?
DP: What percentage of Palestinians do you believe would want peace with Israel, the actual Israel that exists as a Jewish state?
KT: You know what, Dennis? I really don’t know. I really don’t know how many Palestinians want to live with Israel. But why do we care? We are headed towards separation. This is the final solution. The final solution should be that Jews are separated from the Palestinians. Jews and Palestinians don’t want to live together. They don’t want to coexist. They don’t want to work together. So you separate them. And what’s happening on the ground is good. There is separation. It’s happening physically. Israel is disengaging from the Palestinians wherever it can. 99% of the Palestinians in the West Bank live under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. All, 100% of the Palestinians in Gaza live under Hamas. So in a way, there is some kind of disengagement. We should stop dreaming about real peace and coexistence and harmony, and creating a new Middle East, and building a Singapore and a Hong Kong in the West Bank and Gaza. That’s not going to happen. If anyone thinks that Jews and Arabs living over there will wake up in the morning and start hugging each other and make peace, that’s not going to happen. So let’s go to conflict management in the meantime. Let’s separate these two communities from each other, and try to reduce the level of violence, with the hope that on the Palestinian side, in the meantime, you would see the emergence of new, strong, charismatic, and brave leaders who will then start talking about peace. I’m not very optimistic, because I think that on the Palestinian and Arab side, we have already raised an entire generation or two on glorification of suicide bombers, and anti-Semitism, and anti-Western values. We have radicalized Arab society. We have radicalized the young generation. And as such, I’m not very optimistic about the prospects for peace. And that’s why I’m saying let’s go to conflict management. Let’s reduce the level of violence. First and foremost, that should be the top priority right now, to stop the violence. And at the same time, to help the Palestinians help themselves, to help the Palestinians build infrastructure, build government. I’m not talking even about good government, because we don’t have any government. I mean, you can’t say that Hamas is a real government, and you can’t say that Fatah is a real government. This power struggle between Fatah and Hamas is a power struggle between bad guys and bad guys. Hamas is in power because of Fatah’s corruption, because of Fatah’s failure to deliver.
DP: Well, that’s a powerful statement. I agree with every word. And in light of that, is there…I totally agree. I’ve always felt separation, unfortunately, was by far the only practical answer. So the question that arises is what does that mean for the Israeli Arab? Is he torn in his allegiance? What is the story with Israel’s Arabs?
KT: Well, yeah, that’s a very good question. We, the Israeli Arabs, I mean, we are 1.4 million Arabs living inside Israel with Israeli citizenship. We make up like 20% of the population inside Israel. We want to continue living inside Israel. We belong to the Palestinian people, but we are Israeli citizens. Our homes are inside Israel. Our lands are inside Israel. We are Israeli citizens, and we have been ever since the establishment of the Jewish state. We belong inside Israel. We would like to see a Palestinian state on the other side. We would like to see good relations between Jews and Palestinians. We, the Israeli Arabs, can actually serve as a bridge between our Jewish neighbors and our Arab brothers on the Palestinian side. If we were given the choice of living in a Palestinian state or staying inside Israel, we would stay inside Israel. And I’m not saying that, you know, life inside Israel, life is 100% good, and it’s perfect. No, we do have problems with the Israeli establishment, we, the Arab minority. But at the end of the day, we’re not aspiring to move. We don’t want to change our addresses. We want to stay Israeli citizens. Let me remind you that the majority of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the state of Israel, and have been so ever since 1948.
DP: Yeah, that is absolutely true. I am wondering, I’ve always wanted to ask an Israeli Arab this question. And I want to ask you, therefore. Does the Hatikva offend you, the Israeli National Anthem?
KT: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.