From Newsweek, By Benny Morris May 8, 2008:
...During the 1990s, as the Oslo peace process gained momentum, I was cautiously optimistic about the prospects for peace. But at the same time I was scouring the just opened archives of the Haganah and the IDF.
Studying the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict—in particular the pronouncements and positions of the Palestinian leadership from the 1920s on—left me chilled. Their rejection of any compromise, whether a partition of Palestine between its Jewish and Arab inhabitants or the creation of a binational state with political parity between the two communities, was deep-seated, consensual and consistent.
Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestinian national movement during the 1930s and 1940s, insisted throughout on a single Muslim Arab state in all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab "street" chanted "Idbah al-Yahud" (slaughter the Jews) both during the 1936-1939 revolt against the British and in 1947, when Arab militias launched a campaign to destroy the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. Husseini led both campaigns.
So when Yasir Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's two-state proposals at Camp David in July 2000, and then President Clinton's sweetened offer the following December, my surprise was not excessive. Nor was I astounded by the spectacle of masses of suicide bombers launched, with Arafat's blessing, against Israel's shopping malls, buses and restaurants in the second intifada, which erupted in September 2000. Each suicide bomber seemed to be a microcosm of what Palestine's Arabs had in mind for Israel as a whole. Arafat's rejectionism and, after his death, the election of Hamas to dominance in the Palestinian national movement, persuaded me that no two-state solution was in the offing and that the Palestinians, as a people, were bent, as they had been throughout their history, on "recovering" all of Palestine.
I found that current events had echoes in the historical record, and vice versa. The founding charter of Hamas repeatedly refers to the victory of Saladin over the medieval crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and compares the crusaders to the Zionists. In researching my new history of the 1948 war, I was struck by the fact that this analogy, usually overlooked or ignored by previous historians, suffused the statements and thinking of Palestinian leaders and the leaders of the surrounding Arab states during the countdown to, and the course of, the war. A few days before Arab armies struck at Jewish forces in Palestine, Abd al-Rahman Azzam, secretary general of the Arab League, told the British minister in Transjordan their aim was to "sweep the Jews into the sea."
If the documents I studied 20 years ago painted Palestinians tragically, as the underdog, this record did the opposite. It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn't merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a "worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine" and declared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.
This history has deepened and reinforced my pessimism, itself bred by the failure of Oslo. Those currently riding high in the region—figures like Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—are true believers who are convinced it is Allah's command and every Muslim's duty to extirpate the "Zionist entity" from the sacred soil of the Middle East....