When is a ‘peace process’ helpful — and when isn’t it?

Israel and the US are making a big mistake by placing trust in Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Ramallah with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Abbas – for the first time since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June – seemed to soften his stance toward the Islamist movement, calling on it to “return to national unity.” Abbas’s remarks were interpreted by Palestinians as an appeal to Hamas to resume talks with his Fatah faction.

Hamas immediately welcomed Abbas’s statements and invited him to talk to the movement’s leaders in the Gaza Strip.

“The split that happened [between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip] as a result of Hamas’s coup is temporary and will be removed,” Abbas said. “The Palestinian people are opposed to this separation because we want a united and independent Palestinian state.”

As I’ve written almost ad nauseum, if Hamas and Fatah join in a unity government, then all of the resources — money, arms, and legitimacy — that the West has showered on Abbas fall into the hands of the rejectionist, terrorist Hamas.

This despite the fact that the “renewed peace process” with Fatah has absolutely zero chance of success.

There are supposed to be political benefits to Israel simply from being in such a process. It’s generally believed that it wouldn’t do for Israel to appear to reject any opportunity for a peace agreement, no matter how far-fetched. However, the concrete practical consequences of this present process, which involves military aid to the Palestinians, are dangerous for Israel’s security.

I would argue that the supposed advantages from the negotiations are far overblown. There is supposed to be a propaganda point made — that Israel is always seeking peace. But by entering into a process which can only result in unacceptable demands being made on Israel, such as negotiations based on the Arab League Initiative, Israel leaves herself open to charges of intransigence and bad faith when she rejects these demands as she must.

Another problem is that Israel’s enemies continue to understand any willingness to compromise or make concessions as either a show of weakness or a diabolical trick.

My suggestion is that Israel should make a bottom-line statement something like this: we are willing to negotiate with anyone who will begin by agreeing that Israel is a legitimate state with a right to exist, and who will abjure terrorism or war against Israel.

This may seem like not such a big deal to the average westerner, but most Palestinians and Arabs believe that Israel is not legitimate, that its right to exist is entirely contingent on the decision of the true ‘owners’ of the land, and that therefore they have a right to ‘resistance’.

But a ‘peace process’ based on less than this must in the end be detrimental to the cause of peace.

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