Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Simplest Thing in the World to Understand: Why There Isn't Israel-Palestinian Peace

This article was published in the Jerusalem Post but this is my edited version, I own the rights and please only link--and preferably read--this version.

By Barry Rubin

Media, "experts," and governments finds it very hard to understand an amazing phenomena. No matter what they offer to the Palestinian Authority (PA)--even if it includes money, concessions, and steps toward statehood--the PA says "no."

I wouldn't even bother to write this since the answer seems so simple but a lot of people who are paid to deal with this stuff don't get it. So let me elucidate:
The PA wants everything, an independent state on all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem with no restrictions, no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, no serious security guarantees, no limits on militarization, no agreement that this means an end of the conflict, no insistence that Palestinian refugees be resettled in the state o Palestine,  and nothing to prevent them from pursuing a second stage of wiping Israel off the map entirely.

Now, one could say that it is common for people to want everything and to give nothing in exchange but certain factors--missing in this case--push toward compromise. These factors include:

--Knowing that they cannot get a better deal. The Palestinian know that the West will always offer more if they are intransigent.

--The impasse favors your adversary because your intransigence will gain it international support. In this case, the more intransigent the Palestinians, the more Israel is blamed.

--Economic pressure to change the situation. Since the PA is almost completely supported by foreign aid that is not threatened by its hardline this pressure does not exist.

--Public opinion pressure to change the situation. In this case, Palestinian public opinion is relatively radicalized and ideological and does not demand a compromise settlement.

--Concern that your political rivals will "out-moderate" you and win by offering to make a deal. In this case, the opposite is true: rivals "out-radicalize" and threaten to destroy you politically and perhaps even physically if you make a deal.

--Belief that time is not on your side. Due to religious and nationalist ideology, along with misperception of Israel, the PA (and even more Hamas) believes that time is on its side; that waiting a couple of generations and many decades doesn't matter.

That's not a complete list. But the point is that the world in general, the United States and Europe, the UN and Arabic-speaking states and Muslim-majority states have created a "perfect" system in that it is pretty unbreakable. Here's a brief description:

--The PA has no incentive to make peace and won't do so.

--The world insists that "peace" is an urgent top priority.

--The only variable is Israel, which must be made to give way. But Israel won't do so because of past experience and the fact that the risks are now too high.


Nothing will change. There will be no peace process; no Palestinian state. No "progress" will happen. You can read this article in two or three years and it will still be completely up to date.  If you don't understand the points made above it is impossible to comprehend the Middle East. There will be thousands of emails, hundreds of articles, scores of expensive conferences, dozens of foundation grants, and tens of peace initiatives that are all meaningless because they are based on false premises.

This is not left-wing or right-wing but merely an explanation as to why all the schemes and theories of those who do not see these facts never actually take wing. It is not politically correct but factually correct.

Now, you might ask, do I just criticize or do I have constructive policy advice? I do.  Here it is:
When the Palestinian Authority rejects the Quartet proposal for negotiations, the United States, European Union, and anyone else who wants to go along tells them, "We've tried to help you and you don't want to listen so since we have lots of other things to do we will go do it. Good luck and if you ever change your mind and get serious about making peace you have our phone number."

The previous paragraph would send shock and rejection throughout policy circles, right? But why? If you cannot solve a problem and--let's be clear here--the problem doesn't need to be solved immediately, than you work on other problems. And there are no shortage of those!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. We are left, however, with the following problem: Those in positions of political, media, and intellectual power don't get it.

Solution: Please explain it to them, replace them, or take their place.

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