Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad warned Friday that peace talks could collapse unless Israel changes course and accepts a more conciliatory approach…
“Israel has failed to meet any of its obligations from the ‘road map,’ including a freeze in settlement activity,” he said. “That is most troubling. Unless that changes, the political process is being stripped of its meaning”…
“The progress that started in Annapolis has been slow and does not suggest the likelihood of meeting the objectives from Annapolis of ending the conflict and launching a Palestinian state.” — Jerusalem Post
It is not at all clear to me why he thinks that “settlement activity” is the big stumbling block. As I pointed out recently, this activity is all construction within the boundaries of existing settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, areas that Israel expects will remain under Israeli control. Anyway, discussions of final borders, etc., could continue despite a few hundred houses being built inside these areas.
Leaving aside the questions of Hamas, the terrorist factions within Fatah and the lack of support for Fatah among the Palestinian population, there is one really major reason that the ‘peace’ negotiations can’t possibly succeed in ending the conflict — although they could give birth to a Palestinian state, a disaster if the conflict is not truly ended.
The reason is that the Palestinians do not accept that there can be a Jewish state anywhere in ‘Palestine’. A Palestinian state in the territories might or might not be an improvement for them, but it does not solve the ‘problem’ of Israel.
Here are some ways that we can see this:
- If the Palestinians wanted an independent state alongside Israel, why should they care if Israel is a Jewish state? But even Salaam Fayad, the most ‘moderate’ of all PA officials, will not agree to accept Israel as a Jewish state.
- The Palestinian demand for the ‘return’ of millions of descendants of refugees to Israel would instantly create an Arab majority in Israel, thus ending the Jewish state (and in truth, probably triggering a massive civil war). No population in history has ever been granted a ‘right of return’ like this, and yet they continue to insist on it.
Israel does not need to be ‘more conciliatory’ because Israel has already agreed, in principle, to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It is by no means clear from a historical or legal point of view that they had to do this, but they did. Now it’s time for the Palestinians to agree to a Jewish state alongside ‘Palestine’.
In order to display as much seriousness as Israel has, the Palestinians would have to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and agree to live in peace with it, and they would have to agree to solve the refugee problem in some way other than ‘return’ to Israel.
The present PA leadership — with full agreement from the population — will not take these steps.
Combine this with the weakness of the PA, the strength of Hamas, and the internationalization of the conflict by major powers inside and outside of the Middle East — the fact that it has become a proxy struggle in a complicated game of multidimensional chess being played by the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia — and we see that it is highly unlikely that a peaceful solution to the conflict can be achieved today.
There may have been historical moments when this could have been achieved — the early 1990’s, for example. But that opportunity, if there was one, was missed when Arafat’s PLO was chosen to speak for the Palestinians. Possibly there will be another such time in the future, although I’m pessimistic that it will be the near future.
For now, the strategy for Israel has to be to avoid concessions that will produce strategic weaknesses and to strengthen her military posture to defend herself against the threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.