Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who Won't Talk? The Palestinian Authority, Not Israel

This article appears on my blog at PajamasMedia here. Please visit my blog at PajamasMedia. If you reprint please link to the PajamasMedia site. The text is reprinted here for your convenience.

By Barry Rubin

There’s a wonderful line in the great film, “Arsenic and Old Lace” in which the main character, played by Cary Grant, learns that his relatives are all quite insane. He remarks, “Insanity doesn’t just run in my family. It gallops!” So it is with anti-Israel bias in the New York Times.

The effort to make Israel look bad is simply ridiculous. But even in this context, the following lead paragraph caught my eye:

“As Germany moves closer to other European countries in adopting an increasingly tough stance toward Israel’s reluctance to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that it was more urgent than ever that the talks be restarted.”

The article as a whole is pretty shoddy stuff, based on rumor and diplomatic gossip. But I want to focus on that phrase about “Israel’s reluctance to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”

It is a matter of public record that at no time during the past half-dozen years has Israel been reluctant to hold peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The talks were broken off by the Palestinians, that is the Palestinian Authority (PA), in January 2009 during the Hamas-Israel war, begun by a Hamas attack on Israel.

The PA then refused to negotiate, despite almost daily statements about his desire for talks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for more than 18 months. When President Barack Obama called for talks in Washington to be held in December 2009, Netanyahu agreed and PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas, refused.

Then Obama asked Israel for a nine-month freeze on new construction in the West Bank. Netanyahu agreed, to be warmly praised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as having made an unprecedented concession, on October 31, 2009. Until the very end of that freeze, the PA again refused to talk. Finally, knowing that the freeze would end within days, the PA agreed. A couple of rounds of talks (one each two weeks) were held. Then the freeze expired, as everyone knew it would, and the PA walked out of talks.

Since then, Israel has continued to propose negotiations; the PA has refused. Yet over and over we see in the Western media that the lack of talks is Israel’s fault. This is such an obvious fabrication—a total reversal of the truth—that it is downright staggering. Incidentally, I haven’t seen anyone in the Obama Administration make any statement of this sort. The U.S. government knows very well that the PA is the one refusing to negotiate.

And why? First, the PA leadership is generally too hardline to negotiate any conceivable peace with Israel, unwilling to make any compromises. Second, it is too weak to negotiate any conceivable peace with Israel, unable to make any compromises. It fears its own people—whose extremism has been stoked by every Palestinian institution, leaders fear their rivals, and the ruling Fatah fears Hamas.

Third, the PA has another strategy: go to the UN, have the world declare Palestine a state, and there's no need to negotiate with Israel at all or to make any compromises. What's there to negotiate about when they already have most of what they want?

If you don’t understand why the PA doesn’t want to make peace with Israel, can’t make peace with Israel, and has an alternative in mind to making peace with Israel, you can’t understand anything about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the Middle East in general.

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