Thursday, October 15, 2009

How the Palestinian Authority is Killing Even the Charade of a Peace Process

By Barry Rubin

Let’s take a careful look at this AP dispatch on an October 12 Fatah internal memorandum. The official Fatah document charges the Obama Administration with disappointing the Palestinians and being mainly responsive—like presumably all previous presidents—to the pro-Israel lobby.

It states:

"All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated. Obama couldn't withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace."

Now if the Palestinian Authority and Fatah aren’t happy with Obama they are going to have a very difficult time ever finding a U.S. government they like.

And even given this attitude, their “job” is to court the U.S. government, give it incentives to help them, show they are compromising in order to win its favor, and prove they can deliver benefits for American interest. But they have no concept of such a strategy.

Instead, they basically demand what they want and view anyone who doesn’t give it to them—without their doing anything to earn it—as an enemy.

Note carefully this passage in the AP dispatch about the memorandum:

“Obama raised Palestinian hopes further with his repeated calls for Israel to halt all construction in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem--areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.”

What the mass media won’t tell you is that Obama himself introduced this divisive idea of a freeze—which the Palestinians had never made a precondition for talks—thus leading the Palestinians to raise their demands and, consequently, wrecking even talks being held, much less them achieving any progress.

And here, indirectly, is the proof:

“The last round of Israel-Palestinian negotiations broke down late last year with no apparent breakthroughs on the main issues dividing the two sides: final borders, the status of Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinians who lost homes and other property in Israel after it achieved statehood in 1948.”

No mention of construction freeze here, right? Just borders, Jerusalem, and the Palestinian demand (a rather strange one for real nationalists but not for those who put the priority on destroying Israel) that Palestinians go to live in Israel rather than Palestine.

Two other points are worth noting. First, the Western media virtually never mention Israeli demands when discussing the peace process. Nothing about security guarantees, that any peace agreement ends the conflict forever (which is a rather normal thing to request), plus demilitarization and the barring of any foreign forces from entering the state. Only Palestinian demands are ever brought up.

(To be fair, one could imply that Israel wants border modifications, east Jerusalem, and Palestinians going to live in Palestine, but in other articles these are mentioned far less than Palestinian demands.)

Second, the AP articles states:

“The Palestinians want talks to resume from the point they broke down last year under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Netanyahu says he is not bound by any concessions Olmert may have made.”

This is a common misstatement, rationalizing a ridiculously sleazy bargaining technique. Imagine you are in negotiation with someone over the sale of a house. You offer him a higher price if he makes certain concessions like helping on financing, including the furnishings, etc. He says: “No, I won’t give you any of those things. Now remember where we left off? You offered me a higher price in exchange for nothing.”

If the Palestinians had accepted Olmert’s offer and made their own concessions to get more, Netanyahu would view himself as bound by any concessions Olmert made. But since the Palestinians rejected Olmert’s proposal and refused to give the concessions he asked of them, no Israeli government is bound. As Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said in an identical situation: Nothing is decided until everything is decided.

And finally here’s my favorite line about the memorandum:

“The document, dated October 12, was issued by Fatah's Office of Mobilization and Organization. The office is headed by the party's No. 2, Mohammed Ghneim.”

Do an Internet search—allowing for variations for the transliteration of this name, example, Muhammad Ghaneim—and you will find that I’m just about the only one who has written about this gentleman and his role as the number-two man in Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO. Everyone else has ignored it.

I wrote that Ghaneim is a hardliner who rejected the 1993 Oslo agreement and would pull the Palestinian leadership in a more radical direction, making peace even more impossible and increasing the movement’s anti-Americanism.

This is precisely what’s happening.

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), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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