The idea that conflicts between peoples can be resolved by diplomatic negotiation has frequently been a dangerous delusion. Duplicitous states bargain in bad faith, using the process to buy time and mask their aggression. States unwilling or unable to use force will make diplomacy an excuse to substitute words for deeds. Too often, as historian Robert Conquest wrote about Cold War diplomacy with the Soviet Union, “since diplomats’ forte is negotiation, they believe negotiation to be good in itself . . . But the Soviets did what their interests required when the alternative seemed less acceptable, and negotiation was merely a technical adjunct.”
The 60-year-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is the textbook example of the dangers of insincere diplomatic negotiation. The latest phase of that struggle is the threat of the Palestinians to ask the U.N. Assembly to change their status from non-voting observer “entity” to non-voting observer state. “The change,” The New York Times writes, “would pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of United Nations bodies and conventions, and it could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.” The United States has threatened to veto such a move if it comes before the Security Council, which unlike the Assembly can grant full U.N. membership as a state. Thus the U.S. is furiously lobbying other states in order to head off a move that could, according to the director of the American Task Force on Palestine, “inflame emotions [in the Middle East] and bring anti-American sentiments to the forefront across the region” already roiling with revolution. A United States veto, former ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk agrees, “will provoke a Palestinian awakening” and incite “new violence” for which “we will be blamed.”
One has to wonder what world these diplomats live in. They seem to think that the conflict is one merely of achieving Palestinian statehood, and that negotiating to that end will resolve the dispute and bring peace to the region. They’re worried about the Palestinian move in the U.N. because it will end negotiations with Israel, negotiations that have been fruitless for decades, and that have done nothing to stem the terrorist violence perpetrated by Palestinians who want to destroy Israel, as the charter of Hamas makes explicit. Nor has the allegedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority negotiated in good faith over the years, turning down numerous opportunities to achieve a state because of an “all or nothing” attitude. Moreover, agreements that have been negotiated have merely encouraged the P.A. to demand more and more concessions from Israel.
Barry Rubin outlines this dismal history of the wages of bad-faith negotiation: “Since 1993, the Palestinian Authority has made several agreements with Israel. In exchange for being handed control over the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank; billions of dollars in aid; the supply of weapons; the return of tens of thousands of Palestinians to these territories; and many other benefits, the PA promised to do various things in return. These include an end to incitement to kill Israelis; stopping terrorism; and negotiating in good faith for a comprehensive agreement.” Yet the P.A. has not fulfilled any of these promises for which it received such concessions. Indeed, as Rubin continues, “Since Hamas attacked Israel with rockets and mortars setting off a war in December 2008, the PA has refused to negotiate with Israel. When President Barack Obama in September 2009, announced he wanted to hold direct talks in Washington, the PA refused. In 2010, when Israel, at the request of President Barack Obama, froze all construction on settlements for nine months, the PA again wouldn’t talk.” Clearly, negotiation is a tactic to be used depending on circumstances, and the P.A. believes at this moment that the U.N. is a better avenue for achieving its aims than is engaging in talks with Israel.
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