By Barry Rubin
Shouldn’t this farce teach us a lesson? The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the United States and others have telephoned Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and begged him, pleaded with him:
Oh, please please–one can imagine them saying–negotiate with Israel so we can give you a state as soon as possible. We will give you a lot of gifts if you do it, so we can then bestow even more goodies on you!
And Abbas says “No!”
Why? Why if Palestinians are so eager for a two-state solution, for a country of their own, for ending the “horrible” “occupation” (which mostly ended in 1994-1996), putting a stop to the “suffering” of their people, putting a stop to violence, enabling their children to go to school, raising living standards, and all the other benefits of putting an end to this long-standing conflict?
Why? Why? If it is Israel that is blocking peace is Israel’s government ready to negotiate–and has been for more than a year–while the PA says no?
Because it is precisely the PA, and Hamas of course, that is sustaining the conflict. It refuses to make peace because:
–It still hopes for total victory.
–It believes that if it can sabotage a negotiated agreement there will be an imposed one giving the PA everything it wants without compromise or concession on its part.
–It doesn’t want to end the conflict forever, accept less than 100 percent of British mandatory Palestine, and give up the demand that Palestinians can go live in Israel in order to subvert that country.
–It fears that any compromise will ensure that the PA, or the individual leaders who make a deal, is branded as a traitor.
And here, too, is the PA openly thwarting President Barack Obama, who publicly bristles at the tiniest Israeli disagreement, yet seems to accept this disrespect without demur.
Sooner or later, there will probably be direct talks–as there were from 1992 to 2000–and the PA will simply ensure that these fail. But it it fascinating to see how long Abbas will hold out. When he first came to Washington, about 15 months ago, Obama urged him to negotiate with Israel. Abbas refused. Last September, almost 11 months ago, Obama announced there would soon be direct talks. Abbas refused.
Yet I’ll bet most Western journalists and academics would (wrongly) say that Abbas wants a negotiated peace and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t.
Moreover, the Arab League meeting was a step backward. It is generally being reported as giving the green light for Abbas to negotiate with Israel. On the contrary, it is the exact opposite: it sets preconditions. This is a defeat for U.S. policy and may be the deathknell for direct negotiations this year. After all the flattery, distancing from Israel, and going easy on Arab regimes, the Obama Administration has failed to get them to deliver what his three predecessors obtained easily without such measures: direct Israel-Palestinian talks.
What is needed is a paradigm shift in the West to bring public views–in private, government officials often admit that the Palestinians are the problem behind the failure to achieve peace–into line with daily observable reality.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) CenterMiddle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).