Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, widely thought to be the most moderate of Palestinian diplomats, has agreed to resume peace talks with Israel by January 26, 2012 — but only on the condition that Israel cease constructing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while also offering a commitment that it will agree to return the borders of sovereignty to the pre-1967 lines that existed prior to the Six Day War. If Israel does not agree to these prerequisites by that deadline, Abbas said, Palestinians “will take new measures,” and that those measures “might be hard.”
Recognizing Abbas’s stance to be little more than an unreasonable demand and a thinly veiled threat, Israel has resolved that the negotiations must be entered “without prior conditions.” This will undoubtedly appear as bullheadedness on Israel’s part by many in the international community who, according to the Associated Press, have “largely backed the Palestinian positions on settlements and borders.” However, it should be clear to any sensible person that Israel’s refusal to meet the demands of these so-called “moderate” Palestinians is a matter of self-preservation, not obstinacy.
First of all, there is a certain unspoken absurdity in the international community’s expectation that Israel entertain the concession of Gaza, which a return to the pre-1967 lines would require. Hamas, which won control of Gaza in a 2006 election, has in its foundational charter a primary directive of “crushing and defeating” Israel at all costs, and it has a damning record of utilizing terrorism, propaganda, and armed uprisings to achieve that goal.
Yet in spite of this, Abbas has chosen to link Hamas indivisibly to the Palestinian bid for statehood. In an effort to offer the group a semblance of diplomatic legitimacy, he has openly declared that both Hamas and Fatah have agreed to employ “popular” and “peaceful ways, rather than military resistance,” and that a return to 1967 borders would be their “permanent solution.” This kind of reasonable rhetoric may sound promising, but the words ring decidedly false when one considers that after Abbas made this statement, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh proclaimed that any attempt to reconcile Palestinian borders to the 1967 lines would merely be the “first stage” to more closely encroach Israeli borders and launch “intifada after intifada” until they “liberate all of Palestine — all of Palestine, Allah willing.” Abbas’s hollow statements were further nullified when Fatah leader Abbas Zaki showed agreement, stating that Fatah shares Hamas’s ambition, though he recognizes that “you can’t say it to the world. You can say it to yourself.”
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