Thursday, June 12, 2014

Strategy for Failure in the Middle East
by David Gilfix

It is difficult to believe that anyone really expected success in the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, especially US Secretary of State, John Kerry.  In case you were too busy or fed-up by the whole process to follow, I’ll explain via analogy.  

Let’s imagine that a man who has been unemployed for several years finally lands an interview at a major firm.  The manager of the firm phones this man to arrange a time, but the man questions, “What are you going to give me to come to this meeting?”

“I don’t understand,” says the manager.

The man explains that his time is busy and he needs some sort of ‘enticement’ before he will show up for the interview.   The manager is flabbergasted. 

How would you respond if you were the manager?

Now back to the Middle East.

Sixty-six years after the birth of Israel, the Palestinians were given yet another opportunity to negotiate a land-for-peace deal, courtesy of Obama and Kerry.  Of course, this comes after the Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN Palestine Partition Plan, which the Jews accepted.  The Palestinians opted, with other Arab nations, for war that they hoped would win them all of the land.  They lost.  This also comes after they rejected Israel’s land-for-peace offers in 1967 right after the 6-Day War, again in 2000 at Camp David, and 2001 at Taba, and then again in 2008 (then ironically complained about the Israeli settlements on the disputed territories, which never would have been an issue had they accepted land-for-peace).

In this latest round, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to negotiate, but Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, reacted in a manner eerily similar to the job candidate seeking enticement: “What are you going to give me to come to the meeting?”

“I don’t understand,” essentially replied Kerry.

Abbas explained that Israel must first release 104 Palestinian criminals from prison, including many terrorists convicted of murdering civilians.  Otherwise, the Palestinians would pursue unilateral “diplomatic relations” in the United Nations, which has a well documented history of bias against Israel. 

Netanyahu actually complied – to a point.  Israel released 78 of the 104 convicts.  However, as talks staggered, he also requested guarantees from Abbas that the Palestinians would continue negotiating throughout 2014 before Israel released the final round.  Instead of committing to negotiations, Abbas, who had already secured the release of 78 convicts and given nothing in return, ceased diplomacy, declared that he would take his case before the UN, and serendipitously announced a “reconciliation agreement” between Fatah (his group) and Hamas, which continues to pursue a charter that explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews.

True, it is more complicated than that.  We can hash out the play-by-play of who said and did what when, as if the details are the cause of the negotiations breakdown.  But the first move should have told the story. 

If you want murderers released as a prerequisite to peace negotiations, then chances are the negotiations will fail.  So why pretend?

Meanwhile, as a demonstration of its true devotion to “coexistence,” Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran issued a call to members of the Al-Qassam Brigades to kill Jews on the West Bank. 

The real question is whether Abbas was ever committed to negotiations in the first place.  Certainly, if he truly wanted land-for-peace then he would have found a way to negotiate with Israel.  However, if he was committed to land without peace (or if he didn't want to suffer the consequences of signing a peace treaty with Israel), then he might have believed he could achieve this through the UN.  The problem is that he couldn’t go back to the UN unless the negotiations with Israel broke down first.  But could he find a way to make sure that the negotiations would fail?

Yes.

6 comments:

Mark said...

A bloody civil wqr in Syria with 200 thousand killed and Kerry is worrying about the Israel/Pal merrygoround. That they (the Palestinians) would go to the UN was predetermined. "How" was the interesting part, and Abbas pulled off a clever bait and switch.

Rob Rubin said...

Thank you David. This is an excellent blog site. I agree with you that all Abbas is trying to do is take out Israel by any shifty menas possible since he and others know they lose big time in any conflict as they have since 1948 as you point out. The joining of Hamas and Abbas on the West bank poses a real threat. I assume Hamas can now try to bring in missiles supplied by Iran and others and be able to open 2 fronts so to speak.

Ellen ZG said...

What an interesting and cogent post. Nice job, David.

David H. Mirsky said...

It seems to me that progressive-minded people in the US need to realize that you can't negotiate with people whose only goal is to destroy you. We would all like to have peace, especially in the Middle East, but there will be no peace until there is genuine acceptance of Israel and an end to the war that has been declared, and continues to be fought, against Israel.

Unknown said...

I appreciated your simply stated summary!

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