Barry Rubin (‘And what do we get?’) points out that most of the discussion about the coming negotiations (as always) centers on how much Israel will be forced to give to the Palestinians. But negotiations are a two-way street, and Israel must get something in return. Rubin suggests that it will be something like the following:
- The conflict would be ended. Over. Finished.
- Palestinian refugees would be resettled in Palestine.
- The PA-Fatah-PLO would energetically work to bring Arab states into the peace arrangement.
- Palestine would block terrorist attacks from its territory on Israel by force if needed and stop the systematic incitement of hatred, certainly on the official level, against Israel.
- No foreign troops would be permitted on Palestine’s territory.
With the exception of the refugee issue — which is really a statement that whatever happens to the descendants of the refugees, they will not go to Israel — all of these are hard to define and easy to revoke. Israel’s concessions, of course, are concrete and likely to be permanent.
But even this will be hard for the Palestinians to agree to, thanks to Hamas and the radical elements in Fatah. And if there is agreement, then these will be difficult or impossible for the weak, unrepresentative Abbas / Fayad branch of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to deliver.
Rubin thinks Israel should take part in the conference anyway:
Is it worth trying talks? Yes. Aside from showing the world Israel’s peaceful intentions there might be small successes. The level of conflict could be lowered, PA-Fatah preserved, international help obtained, Arab states brought into deeper engagement.
I can’t agree:
- Israel’s security has been damaged time and again in the name of “showing the world Israel’s peaceful” intentions. The world could not care less, it simply wants to see Israeli concessions.
- The level of conflict would be increased, not lowered, as the radical elements do their best to sabotage any agreement, no matter how worthless for Israel.
- PA-Fatah will lose status if there is an agreement that Israel can approve of, particularly about the refugee and Jerusalem issues.
- International ‘help’ will mean more weapons given to Abbas, which will fall into the hands of Hamas.
- And Arab states, in particular the holy grail of Saudi Arabia, have consistently used the Palestinian issue as a lever to push for the destruction of Israel. Let them worry about the Iranian situation, a real threat to them.
Today, the best peace conference would be no conference at all. But Israel really does desire peace, and the time will be right when the Palestinians and the Arab nations develop a realistic attitude — one which really and truly accepts the presence of a Jewish state in the Mideast.