Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Palestinian Authority's new government: Anyone Ever Ask Them if They're Ready to Negotate Peace?

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has announced its thirteenth government in fourteen years.

Its prime minister is Salam Fayad, a Westernized professional economist who has no political base whatsoever. Why is he prime minister? The only reason is because otherwise Western donors wouldn’t give the money to the PA to function.

After the ceremony, Fayyad rejected talks with Israel at present:

"I do not think this is the appropriate time to talk about negotiations when Israel is not honoring prior agreements and understandings."

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said anything like that—in Washington he said he was eager to renew talks—the headline on every newspaper in the world would be: Netanyahu Refuses to Negotiate Peace with Palestinians.

But since it is the Palestinian leader refusing to negotiate peace with Israel, nobody pays attention.

And who's the foreign minister? Again, it's my old friend, Riyad al-Malki, once a top leader of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on the West Bank. He's the one charged with making peace with Israel and proving to the West that the PA is moderate, flexible, and would love to get along with its neighbor in harmony and mutual respect.

It is useful to recall what I have previously written about him.

At the Durban-2 meeting, Malki said:  "For over 60 years the Palestinian people has been suffering under…the ugliest face of racism and racial discrimination…." and that Israel's position is characterized by "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

It should be noted that for many years, before joining the PA, he was the West Bank leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist group more radical than Fatah. The PFLP murdered many Israeli civilians--including an Israeli cabinet minister--but its leadership always had safe haven in Arab states. As for "xenophobia" and "intolerance," Israel made agreements with the PLO which gave Malki immunity for the crimes in which he was involved.

Does anyone notice something peculiar about a veteran leader of a terrorist group whose goal was genocide calling others xenophobic and intolerant?

Despite being disgusting, this also has an element of amusement for me. The last time I saw him, we were having dinner in Greece and he told me--he never said it was confidential--that the PLO's policy was a disaster, that Yasir Arafat was a terrible leader, that most of the members in his office were thinking of emigrating to Canada (including his brother who had already gone there), and his sister's children were discriminated against in Jordan because they were Palestinians. He added that the demand that all Palestinians be allowed to live in Israel (the so-called "Right of Return") was a mistake because Israel would never accept it. At the end, he concluded--to my astonishment but these are his exact words, "Maybe we are better off staying under Israeli rule."

Naturally, the next day at the conference he gave a speech saying that all the Palestinians' problems were due to Israel. In response to my complaints about PA incitement to anti-Israel violence, he publicly called for a joint committee to monitor incitement on both sides.

When I approached him after the session and said it was a good idea so we should do it, he practically laughed in my face. We both knew that everything he said was for propaganda purposes and he didn't mean any of it.

This is not a man who one can envision making a compromise peace with Israel or doing anything except trying to make propaganda points by public relations' maneuvers.

Here, too, are broader problems that apply to many in the Arabic-speaking world--horrifying the liberals and dashing their hopes repeatedly--when they deal with Israel or America or the West or even their own societies. Reservations about behavior or knowledge of shortcomings is held privately and can never be made public. A sense of absolute outrage displaces empathy, matched with total contempt for an enemy who can only be destroyed. The idea that the best soluiton is a win-win compromise is not something likely to emerge. Self-criticism cannot become the power fueling reform.

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