Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peace Now Responds to My Analysis of Palestinian Politics--And Convinces Me Far More That They are Dangerously Wrong

By Barry Rubin

I just accidently noticed the response of Peace Now USA leader Ori Nir to my analysis that Muhammad Ghaneim's elevation to Fatah's leader showed the group was going toward a hardline. Ori is an extremely nice and decent person but I can only ask: Could one have a better example of the kind of mistaken reasoning groups like Peace Now use?

Ori says that Fatah and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas needed additional support against his opponents so he persuaded Ghaneim to come back. Ori writes that in doing so:

"[Ghaneim] implicitly committed to Fatah's pragmatic platform of peace..."

Talk about wishful thinking! and this is the kind of things we are supposed to risk our lives on?

Here's what's wrong with this:

1. Ori has no evidence for this assertion. He is speculating because he assumes it is impossible for Fatah or the Palestinian movement to reject peace or be more radical. So you have to, in effect, search through the manure until you find the pony.

2. Most important of all, it's one thing to have Ghaneim come back but why should Abbas make him his successor!

3. Nothing will make the locals angrier than importing another guy from Tunis and passing over all those from the West Bank--or at least living there!--including ones who support Abbas. He had a dozen choices at least who are no great doves but at least are status quo types who accept the peace process.

3. Did you catch the word "implicit" By this definition, anyone who joins Fatah on the West Bank or Gaza is by that very fact a supporter of peace!  What's wrong with his explicitly saying: I have changed my views and I think Arafat was right in signing the Oslo agreement. Remember, Ghaneim's not being asked to endorse Benjamin Netanyahu's policy but rather Arafat's and can't even do that.

If he cannot do even that, how the heck is he ever going to negotiate a comprehensive peace with Israel ending the conflict and making some concessions?

4. And finally, what "pragmatic platform of peace"?  I have no problem in principle for their demanding the 1967 borders as their opening position. The first problem is that this is also going to be their closing position. The real tip-off is that if they had a pragmatic platform of peace it wouldn't include the demand that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants had to be able to go live in Israel if they wished.

But notice how groups like Peace Now make the leap from being dovish Israelis to being the advocates of groups like Fatah. Couldn't he just say something like, at least with Abbas there's a chance for peace; at least they're not Hamas, or they've been pragmatic for the last three years or so (note: yeah, after being beaten on the battlefield).

Why is it necessary to polish up and glorify Fatah as wonderful peace lovers instead of--which is an option for doves--guys you don't think are so great but believe you can work out a deal with if you try really hard and they are also pressured and constrained into making peace?

Answer: They have become the pro-Palestinian Authority lobby. Whether they think this is good for Israel (as Ori Nir and Peace Now does) or whether you are lying because you want to get rid of Israel (as much of J Street does) this is still extremely damaging activity.

When people talk like this it makes you far surer they are dangerously wrong than you'd been before they spoke!

It isn't 1993 any more and we should have learned a few things since then.

What we see here in this response is more psychological than analytical. It is clear that there's nothing that Fatah or the PA do or say that will ever convince such people they are moderates. (In contrast, I'm real easy to convince that they're moderates if they talk and act that way. Make my day: please change your behavior)

But the desire for peace--a praiseworthy thing--makes such people reshape reality so that everything falls into place.  Of course, I don't want to believe that my enemy wants to destroy me, is unreasonable, and would rather fight another century than cooperate. But if that's the reality I--and you--better believe it or else we're going to get hurt real bad.

When people talk like this it makes you far surer  they are dangerously wrong than you'd been before they spoke!

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