The Palestinian Predicament
Published on: May 12, 2010
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  • Dimitry

    I hope you get well.
    This is a somewhat disappointing piece, imo. While you do capture some of the big problems of the current situation nicely, you inore or overstate some other things.

    1. You overstate the moderation of PA. While Abbas, Abu Allah, Fayad and Dahlan can be very reasonable and moderate in private, they are not so in public, and what’s even more important, they have liited support in Fatah while its top brass is filled with hardliners who do have support (case in point, Abbas couldn’t even get a quorum to support entering indirect negotiations with the Israelis).

    2. You mention Arafat as somebody who managed to “unite” the palsestinians. Forget about the fact that Hamas was still very active in defiance of Arafat (or with his implicit consent). Arafat had also nurtured the very nature of Palestinian politcs (the gang rule) that had brough us here.

    3. Some of the PA’s predicament as you describe it is a direct result of “rifing the tiger” strategy it had employed for years with regards to Israel. It had nurtured the incitement culture and had an active hnd in active prmotion of the radicallization of the populace (who then turned to Hamas when PA didn’t deliver). Now, it finds it difficult to get off the tiger without being devoured. It risks being violently overthrown if it makes even the smallest concession to the Israelis, because the radicals have a significant support.

    4. You write about Israeli possible unwillingness to make the concession for peace only with the WB. Well, there is another side here. If the Israelis would have been sufficiently sure that such a peae wouldn’t subsequently abrogated if another faction gains power in the WB, then the concessions might not be a problem. Otherwise, they would be making concessions without getting the key part in return — the end of conflict.

    5. Additionally to the previous article. There are oter things Israel needs to get from the agreement. Are the Palestinians ready to relinquish the right of return? Are they prepared for the division of Jerusalem you envisage? I don’t see any indication that these two core problems had changed since Arafat in Camp David.

  • K2K

    My sincere hopes that your bug is destroyed by charcoal and ginger.

    I look forward to your next posts on ‘Peace in the Middle East’, perhaps with some idea of how Salaam Fayyad’s very public failure toblock Israel’s admission into the OECD will now affect Fayyad’s credibility with Fatah and the Palestinians of the West Bank.

    As to Iran? Perhaps one needs to look at Iran from post-election Iraq, Egypt, Saudia Arabia and Afghanistan, instead of from inside Israel looking at Iran’s proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. Has not Nasrallah’s Hezbollah effectively become the key power broker in lebanon’s government? Michael Young posed a different prism in the Lebanon Star about America’s role in “The end for America in the Middle East?”

    Before anyone jumps to final staus of Jerusalem, the first question, as always, is who among the Palestinians will ever acknowledge the existence of Israel as a Jewish State within ANY borders?

    It really is diplomatic theatre 🙂

  • Luke Lea

    Dang, I have that same bug! Your blog is infected. 🙂

    Anyway, you were right when you wrote: “it is far from clear that the Palestinian Authority can deliver what Israel wants most out of peace: security.”

    That was Arafat’s problem too. If he had signed Clinton’s final offer on Oslo he would have been strung up by his own people. Clinton begged him to say what it would take. Arafat’s last word was “More.” (This is according to some of the memoirs of the guys who were there.)

    What “more” meant was spelled out by a small group of junior Palestinian negotiators meeting with some Americans and Israeli’s on the final day of discussions. They suggested that, in addition to everything else that had been agreed to, a figure of $500 billion in compensation (I read this myself in either Haretz or Jerusalem Post at the time.) Of course the Americans and Israelis just laughed. Europe wasn’t even at the table.

    It is time we in the West gave Islamic civilization a little more credit (and attention) than we have in the past. Look up “Blood money” in the Koran. The concept of compensation, in other words, as a way of ending inter-tribal disputes. And then think about your own sense of honor and self-dignity if you were in their shoes.

    Hell, while you are at it ponder the golden rule and re-read the middle chapters of Genesis that describe how Abraham behaved when he came into that land, both at Bersheba and after the war of five against four (or was it three?)

    Of course the situation now is more complicated. This is advanced international ethics, not ethics 101. Solid geometry instead of plane — or maybe even geometry in four dimensions! But the basic principles of justice are exactly the same, and we have had several additional thousands of years of historical experience in which to learn how to apply them.

    Go ask the rabbis. Ask the mullahs. Especially ask the mullahs! And maybe pick up a copy of Grotius (or for a shorter version my own “The Torah and the West Bank,” put out by the Jewish Publication Society back in the day).

  • nadine

    First, get well soon.

    Second, I do not agree that the leaders of the PA are “very reasonable and moderate.” Why not? Because they utterly deny the right of Jews to a single inch of Israel. They deny even the Jews’ historical connection to Israel. In short, they have done NOTHING to prepare the ground for peace. They have raised a generation in incitement and the closures forced by their terrorism prevent young Palestinians and Israelis from meeting each other peacefully. Instead, they choose to run shows like the following on PATV in order to inculcate a “non-negotiable” mindset:

    “The message that all of Israel is stolen “Palestinian” land was repeated twice in the last week on official Palestinian Authority television.

    In the most recent episode of the weekly program We Are Returning, this denial of Israel’s right to exist led to a concrete demand. The PA TV narrator called for Jews to leave Israel and go to Europe and Ethiopia – “your original homeland.”

    PA TV also added a visual message of non-recognition of Israel. The camera focused on a drawing of a map that included all of Israel, but showed Israel erased and covered entirely by the Palestinian flag.

    PA TV is owned by the Palestinian Authority, and is the responsibility of the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.”

    As commentator Dimitry just noted, the PA has been ‘hoist on its own petard’ now that the Palestinian ‘tiger’ of incitement they made such good use of riding has come under Iranian management. They, and all the Sunni Arab regimes with them.

  • Iran – come on. If Israel agreed to a border close to the green line with 1-for-1 land swaps and the other well known outlines of an agreement that could work, the PA would agree to it today. And what does that hurt Iran anyway? They could still fund Hamas and Hezbollah.

    “the leader of Islam against the West” – This is a fantasy for bin Laden; it is meaningless in the real world. And just how do you suppose a Shi’ite country could fulfill this imagined role anyway? By giving money to Hamas?!? No way. Who are Hamas’ other state backers besides Syria? Nobody. And Saddam Hussein gave plenty of money to martyrs, it got him nowhere.

    “Close relations between Iran and Hamas give Iran new legitimacy in the Sunni world and tell Iranians that their strategy is working.” Even if the relationship was like blood brothers, it would do nothing of the sort. The average Sunni thinks Shia are apostates and deserve death. Iran will never have legitimacy among Sunni.

  • Nadine, produce one statement of Abbas or Fayad saying “they utterly deny the right of Jews to a single inch of Israel. They deny even the Jews’ historical connection to Israel.”

    Can’t do it? Didn’t think so. Read up on Fayad instead.

    This video gets your ire? Are you serious?

  • nadine

    “Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor who is now chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and is running for the Palestinian presidency, supports Arafat’s theories on Jerusalem. Speaking to the Israeli-Arab weekly, Kul Al Arab on August 25, 2000, he stated, “Anyone who wants to forget the past cannot come and claim that the temple is situated beneath the Haram. They demand that we forget what happened 50 years ago to the refugees – and I speak as a living, breathing refugee – while at the same time they claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so.” (Mahmoud Abbas)

    Norwegian Shooter, stop lying. It is the official propaganda line of the PA and Fatah that Jews have no history in Israel; there never was a Jewish Temple; there never was Jewish country; the events of the Bible all happened someplace else. It goes hand in hand with Holocaust denial, which Mahmoud Abbas also denied in his dissertation. It’s not new. Arafat tried it out on Bill Clinton at Camp David (according to Clinton), and Clinton told him not to insult his intelligence.

    There are hundreds of statements to this effect, a dozen of which are quoted in The Sun article linked. By now, Palestinians can get in big trouble for just admitting that a Jewish Temple once stood on the Haram. Sari Nusseibeh had to go into hiding briefly for admitting it, and he is a very prominent man.

    There is an on-going propaganda campaign being churned out on (government-controlled) PA TV and other media:

    “In the most recent episode of the weekly program We Are Returning, this denial of Israel’s right to exist led to a concrete demand. The PA TV narrator called for Jews to leave Israel and go to Europe and Ethiopia – “your original homeland.”

    You can watch the clip here:

    I found these clips in five minutes of Googling. There are hundreds of others out there. I repeat, this is the official PA line, all their spokesmen say it, especially when speaking in ARABIC.

    Of course, PA spokesmen do not say such things in ENGLISH to the New York Times, which perhaps is your only source of information. If so, I apologize for saying you were lying. But in that case, you are terribly ill-informed and should educate yourself before commenting again.

  • Nadine, that quote doesn’t fit the bill. For one thing, it doesn’t address “a single inch of Israel. They deny even the Jews’ historical connection to Israel.”

    Rather, Abbas is saying that Israelis can’t have it both ways: denying Arabs in current Israel were driven from their homes in 1948 while remembering the second Temple. If they want to remember the second Temple, then remember 1948 too, he is saying. The last sentence sounds bad, but he is making a rhetorical point. He is demanding Israelis remember 1948 if they demand that he is to remember the second Temple.

    I watched the clip, and even linked to it. It is really rather harmless. Call it propaganda if you want, but it means exactly nothing in scope of the conflict.

    I asked you to produce proof of your claim. Until you do, it is you who should refrain from commenting again.

  • Nadine, still nothing, eh? Well, I just found something about how Bibi thinks about Palestinians, from Peter Beinart’s NYRB piece:

    “In his 1993 book, A Place among the Nations, Netanyahu not only rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, he denies that there is such a thing as a Palestinian. In fact, he repeatedly equates the Palestinian bid for statehood with Nazism. An Israel that withdraws from the West Bank, he has declared, would be a “ghetto-state” with “Auschwitz borders.” And the effort “to gouge Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] out of Israel” resembles Hitler’s bid to wrench the German-speaking “Sudeten district” from Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is unfair, Netanyahu insists, to ask Israel to concede more territory since it has already made vast, gut-wrenching concessions. What kind of concessions? It has abandoned its claim to Jordan, which by rights should be part of the Jewish state.”

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