Israel’s refusal to accommodate Palestinian pre-conditions is rational and politically sound. If Israel were to agree in advance to:
- A complete cessation of all Israeli construction anywhere over the so-called “green line,” including east Jerusalem ( a growing family cannot add a bathroom, villages or towns cannot build housing , schools or even preschools to accommodate local natural growth);
- ceding of all of the West Bank to the PA and forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes; and
- acquiescence to the PA’s “Haq el-Awda” (The “right of return”) flooding Israel with millions of Arabs claiming refugee status and their descendents; then
Israel would be making enormous, costly, and dangerous concessions in advance of any PA agreements. But equally important, if one side acquiesces to all of the other side’s demands before negotiations even begin, then what are they negotiating about? The very idea of such pre-conditions renders negotiations meaningless.
It is important to point out that Israel has demands of its own; but these are not pre-conditions to negotiations, they are desired ends of negotiations.
Perhaps most problematic of all, PA leaders have worked long and hard to find a way to reconcile with Hamas and form a unified PA-Hamas strategy for what they call “popular resistance,” which Israel understands to mean renewed terrorism and a third Intifada.
Re-unification with Hamas poses the greatest threat to Israel. Hamas has been unrelenting in its commitment to an endless war against Israel, “until victory or martyrdom.” Hamas has also consistently refused any possibility of compromises with Israel, as well as any diplomatic process and any interaction that might end in peace and a cessation of hostilities. Polls and other reports indicate that Hamas enjoys much popularity on the West Bank that it, and therefore its agenda items and priorities, could become the dominant force in the West Bank if Hamas and the PA were united there. Israel has made it clear that it will not allow the West Bank to become another Hamastan, a massive launching pad for terrorism, for qasam rockets, and a new and improved training ground for the world’s worst terrorist murderers.
But the PA is forced into this strategy of re-unification with Hamas because without Hamas it loses credibility as an active participant in the 75-year-long genocidal war against Israel. El-qaeda and Hamas have condemned Abbas as a collaborator with Israel because he has made the mere pretense of willingness to negotiate. Abbas needs that credibility in order to continue benefiting from the largesse of Arab confrontation states and Iran.
So the PA must insist to its own constituency that it is refusing to negotiate, while representing to the USA and EU that it is Israel which is obstructing even indirect talks. This charade was exposed by the Quartet recently when Abbas and Sa’eb Erekat, a senior PA negotiator, demanded that the Quartet serve as a conduit for the communication of PA proposals, because the PA leaders were unwilling to meet directly with Israeli leaders. To their credit, Quartet officials refused to support the PA in this endeavor to circumvent direct talks, and told Abbas: “If you have something to say to the Israelis, you should give it to them directly.”
The latest attempt to get PA leaders to the negotiating table, this time in early January in Amman, foundered at the very onset. Palestinian representatives demanded that the talks be termed “exploratory talks” and not “peace talks,” and clashes about protocol and delegation participants moved the Palestinian side to refuse to even enter the same room with the Israelis. By all accounts the talks produced little, and the Palestinian side early on announced its decision to terminate them at the end of January. As this last in a long series of failed talks drew to a close on January 26, a new wave of terror attacks began in the West Bank, with daily attacks on individual Israeli motorists driving in the West Bank and the death of a father and son murdered on the main highway between Hebron and Jerusalem.
Mr. Panetta take note: Israel is already seated at that “damn table” but “peace” and “negotiations” are simply not in the PA’s vocabulary.
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