Who killed the “peace process”?

Who killed the “peace process”? Not Israel — it was dead long before the Gaza war.

The Peace Process is in Jeopardy? I Wonder Why!
by Barry Rubin

Whatever became of reality, at least in analyzing the Middle East? Consider the following:

With every image of the dead in Gaza inflaming people across the Arab world, Egyptian and Jordanian officials are worried that they see a fundamental tenet of the Middle East peace process slipping away: the so-called two-state solution, an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel. — NY Times

So begins an article in the New York Times that explains the peace process is failing and the two-state solution slipping away. It is one more example of an obsessive narrative whose key premise is this: the Palestinians can never be responsible for anything.

Of course, the Arab world’s public reaction to the Gaza war is not pushing it in a more moderate direction. Yet on a governmental level — and compared to past such crises including the 1982 Lebanon war, 2000-2005 Palestinian intifada, and 2006 Israel-Hizballah war — most governments have come as close to being pro-Israel as you are ever going to see them. Privately, they make clear they want Hamas beaten. Publicly, they are far more reserved in their speech and passive in their reactions.

That’s the big story. As for the Arab street, that much-exaggerated phenomenon, since when have governments followed its dictate?

Yet there’s even more to this kind of argument quoted above: the implication that only Israel is responsible for the peace process’s poor prospects and a Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution, and only now is it happening.

What about these historical events:

  • Camp David, 2000: Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat rejects negotiations on the basis of a two-state solution; orders violent uprising instead.
  • Clinton Plan, 2000: Arafat and the PLO reject President Bill Clinton’s plan which gives them more than anything offered before.
  • Palestinian Intifada, 2000-2005: Massive violent uprising characterized mainly by the use of anti-civilian terrorism, an embodiment of rejection for any compromise peace.
  • Failure to prepare Palestinian people for peace: During the 1993-2000 peace process and down to this day, the PLO, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not speak, write, or teach their people to desire a two-state solution. Continued incitement to terror meets up with continued rejection of Israel’s existence. This is true in schools, mosques, PA statements, Fatah position papers, television, newspapers, and every other aspect of life. Since Fatah and the PA never enthusiastically support a two-state solution and sold it to its own people, how is this not the destruction of any such hope?
  • The Rise of Hamas: The man most responsible for Hamas’s rise is Arafat himself, both because he tried to use the group for his own benefit and he did not combat it by presenting a strong alternative viewpoint, working to benefit his people, or countering it through effective organizational activity. Once Hamas outflanked Fatah in radicalism, the race was on to prove who was the least moderate as a way of mobilizing support.
  • Hamas’s seizure of the Gaza Strip: With two Palestinian governments how could Israel negotiate with the PA? And with one of those governments totally against peace, how could any negotiations succeed? Since Hamas always has opposed a two-state solution, how is its empowerment not the destruction of any such hope?
  • Hamas’s war on Israel: By constantly launching cross-border attacks, mortars, and rockets at Israel, Hamas ensured that the conflict would heat up and progress toward peace be impossible.
  • Weak Fatah-PA leadership and pro-Hamas strategy: It is clear that Fatah and PA leaders would rather make up with Hamas than make peace with Israel. Why isn’t the PA demanding that Hamas be unseated and the international community return the Gaza Strip to its rightful government (since Hamas seized power by a violent coup, not an election)? PA leader Mahmoud Abbas may be relatively moderate but he lacks the personal strength and organizational support — in other words the will and the means — to make the compromises needed to attain a two-state solution. (Even he continues to hold less moderate views such as insistence that all Palestinians whose families ever lived on what is now Israeli territory can come and live in Israel or agreement that a two-state solution would end the conflict completely.)
  • Fatah’s shift away from a two-state solution: There is an ample literature from Fatah and the PA, as well as material by analysts, that Fatah and the PA have been turning away from a two-state solution for several years, if not the whole at least a large and powerful portion of each group.
  • Doubt whether a two-state solution was there in the first place. Looking back on the last 15 years it is hard to find any Palestinian groups and very few individuals who were clearly and irrevocably committed to a two-state solution.

Yet none of these points, in many circles, can be seen as having any effect on the peace process — which has effectively been dead since 2000 — or the two-state solution. Only if Israel defends itself against the attack of a group which rejects peace and the two-state solution, divides the Palestinian leadership, etc., can many members of the Western intelligentsia, “experts,” academics, and journalists declare the peace process and two-state solution to be jeopardized.

This is ludicrous and one more reason why such people cannot understand the Middle East nor predict its direction. Of course, some of this is due to bias against Israel, certain aspects of contemporary leftist ideology, and even antisemitism.

But to understand this phenomenon in terms of specific conceptions of the issue, two specific points must be made:

  • The refusal to understand the nature of Palestinian radicalism (and of Islamist and some other Third World nationalisms as well). These are not pragmatic movements seeking better conditions, they are revolutionary ones seeking total victory. Hamas doesn’t want a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It wants an Islamist state in Israel’s place. Fatah and the PA don’t seek a two-state solution, or at least not one that forever forecloses their chance of achieving a Palestinian nationalist state in Israel’s place.
  • The refusal to treat Third World people as human beings. What is the contemporary embodiment of imperialist and racist attitudes? The answer is those who insist on treating people like the Palestinians, or Muslims, or Arabs as helpless victims who are always merely reacting to what others to do them. It used to be said that the West were the “betters” of such inferior people. Now the paradigm is reversed and the West (and in this case Israel) is seen as their “worsers.”

The basic idea, however, still remains: they have no will of their own, no goals of their own, no world view of their own. This is nonsense and dangerous nonsense at that.

The peace process and two-state solutions have been disappearing neither because of anything Israel has done nor to the most recent events. The Palestinians killed them and they did so several years ago.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit http://www.gloriacenter.org.

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One Response to “Who killed the “peace process”?”

  1. ME says:

    Barry, your articles are always so insightful. This really raises excellent points.