In a previous post, I wrote how the question of what the conflict is about would tell more about how a politician would relate to Israel than any question about their specific policy leanings. I concluded that post by saying that, under current circumstances, it would actually not succeed in doing so because everyone would answer the question wrongly, that it is about two peoples who need to find a way to share their common homeland. I now start to explore how to promote consideration of the possibility that the conflict is about Arab-Muslim irredentism for the 19th century social order.
The first step in promoting the discussability of the irredentism narrative is to identify the obstacles to that narrative. This must come before any mention of facts that require mental gymnastics to reconcile with the common homeland narrative but are bang-your-head obvious with the irredentism narrative. This is so because as long as those obstacles remain, and as long as the Palestinians' motives are not directly observable, people will perform the necessary mental gymnastics to protect the common homeland narrative and keep the irredentism narrative outside the pale.
I would speculate that one obstacle to the irredentism narrative is the belief that it would be deployed in bad faith in order to insulate Israel from ever having to make any concessions for peace. An attempt to answer that would require on insistence on precise language. The way to describe the barrier that Arab-Muslim irredentism presents to a resolution that would be anything other than strengthening the Palestinians' hands so that they can eliminate Israel without any further western assistance is not that peace is impossible because the Palestinians are irredentent. Rather, the description must be that peace is impossible as long as the Palestinians and that peace will be feasible as soon as the Palestinians ditch their irredentism, but no sooner. That formulation allows for Israeli concessions once the irredentism is abandoned and puts the onus on the peace crowd to push for such abandonment if it wishes to see Israeli concessions.
However, saying that abandonment of irredentism will bring forth Israeli willingness for concessions will be inadequate if Palestinian irredentism is unfalsifiable. In that case, the peace camp will just say that no matter what, we will claim that the Palestinians are irredentent and thus claim a get out of concessions free card. They will say if we claim that the Palestinians' irredentism persists past Arafat's recognition of Israel at Oslo, and Abbas reaffirmation of that recognition, that nothing would qualify to us as renunciation of that irredentism. We need to describe what would do so. I would suggest that a three-fold declaration from the Palestinian leadership would be sufficient to show that they might no longer be irredentent.
- The Jews are a people.
- The Jewish people are deeply connected to the Land of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular.
- There is no legitimate role for the Pact of Umar in today's world.
This is not to say making the three-fold declaration would be proof-positive that the Palestinians have abandoned their irredentism. However doing so without contradiction, it would show that there is sufficient probability that they have in order to conduct talks. Notably, calling the excavation of the road that led pilgrims to the Temple "fake archaeology" is a contradiction of "the Jewish people are deeply connected to Jerusalem," and thus any statement to that effect would be as if the three-fold declaration was never made.
A further point is that it is necessary to know why failure to make the three-fold declaration, or any subsequent contradiction, is proof-positive that the irredentism remains. For that, it is necessary to explain why the PLO maintains in its charter that "the Jews are citizens of the countries where they live and have no national identity" and why the PA teaches in its curriculum that the Jews are not a people and that the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is a fiction concocted to justify stealing it from the Palestinians. As Einat Wilf has explained, peoples are entitled to the homeland from which they originate and denying that to any people is a grave injustice. However, if the Jews are not people, and if the Jews do not have any actual connection to the Land of Israel, then no people is being denied of its homeland by taking Israel away from the Jews and thus no injustice would be perpetrated. Hence, the refusal to acknowledge those three things is a creation of an alternate reality in which eliminating Israel, thus realizing their irredentism, is a just action.
With a clear condition that is straightforward to meet, we can make it clear that there is a reasonable condition under which concessions would be feasible, thus removing one obstacle to the irredentism narrative. Update: Link was added to the referenced post.