By Barry Rubin
It’s truly remarkable about how international diplomacy on the Middle East, especially Israel-Palestinian issues, is so out of touch with reality. Consider the Quartet’s response to the mess at the UN. The proposal is for Israel-PA talks to start within a month, both sides to present proposals on borders and security within three months, and to reach a final agreement by the end of 2012.
This is insane. The premise here is that the PA is really eager to negotiate a compromise agreement with Israel. Everything that’s happened in the past three years—indeed the last 18 years since the Oslo agreement was signed—shows the exact opposite. The PA spent a year building its campaign for unilateral independence at the UN precisely to avoid negotiating with Israel at all.
Why then create a Western policy that is not only doomed to fail but certain to fail in the most obvious and humiliating way? The Palestinians won’t negotiate in a month, they won’t rush to present any proposals in three, and they certainly won’t reach a peace treaty in a year. It looks like the PA will reject the whole proposal—a step for which they will pay no penalty but in fact will get more rewards and concessions, and thus will be encouraged to ignore the West even more.
The dumbest possible thing to do is to put a strict time limit on talks when your spoiled and rejectionist “client” doesn’t want to cooperate. The outcome will make the PA look very bad but “fortunately” the media and Western governments won’t point that out. Instead, the PA will run out the one-year deadline, then complain that Israel is at fault and doesn’t really want peace. and then urge speedy Western concessions to the PA and pressures on Israel.
Could anything possibly be more predictable? Perhaps the only possible explanation is that the U.S. government, UN, and EU (I doubt the Russians do so) believe their own propaganda. They really think the PA can’t wait to make a deal if only Israel is forced to negotiate and some more concessions are offer. Haven’t they learned anything?
In addition, perhaps in a time when claimed victimhood is the only measure of what is just, morale, and proper for foreign policy, the Western governments can’t get out of the rut of seeing the Palestinians only as victims. This requires the West to “help” them escape victimhood as fast as possible. Instead, the Palestinian leadership’s goal is the “old-fashioned” concept of total victory and turning their adversaries into total victims.
They don’t want to cease being “victims”; they want to start being conquerers. Consequently, the Western governments think the Palestinians are in a hurry to improve their lot while, in fact, they are patient in seeking instead to grind Israel into the dust.
Meanwhile, veteran Fatah leader Abbas Zaki has openly explained that the whole UN gambit is an effort to get an independent state as a step toward wiping Israel off the map. If Western journalists, experts, government official, and various “peacemakers” understood how this truly represents the Palestinian position a lot of money, time, and lives would be saved.