Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A predictable collapse

Zalman Shoval

Just as former U.S. President Bill Clinton exposed the true face of Yasser Arafat at Camp David, we must thank Secretary of State John Kerry for exposing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' rejectionist colors. Even though the American spokespersons have since gone back to waxing about "the negative steps taken by both sides," their initial reaction to the diplomatic crisis left no doubt that they too thought the crux of the responsibility fell on the Palestinians.
In the meantime Kerry has declared "reality check time," or in other words that the inventory of facts and varying positions must be accounted for, and thankfully so, because any real examination will show that the Palestinians booby-trapped the process from the start and never, not for a moment, abandoned their original plan to ultimately turn to the United Nations.

When the late Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Shomron was asked his opinion of the Palestinian leadership, he answered simply that it comprised "a bunch of terrorists." Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to shed the impression that despite Abbas' tactical and utilitarian conclusion that the weapon of terrorism is not conducive to the Palestinian cause, it seems hard for him and his cohort to discard the terrorist mentality, as clearly evidenced by their latest moves.
Prior to the first stage of the negotiations the Palestinians demanded, and received, the release of terrorists, but toward the end of the talks they injected Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat and Israeli Arab terrorists into the equation, all without having any intention of forgoing the planned U.N. gambit.
The current crisis is not a surprise. While Kerry's honest intentions need not be questioned, perhaps he and his advisers should have been more cognizant, based on the facts from the past, of the prearranged Palestinian script. We can also wonder what the basis was for their belief they would succeed, this time around, to overcome the fundamental Palestinian negativism toward any process or arrangement obligating them to concessions and compromises on the conflict's core issues.
By the way, and with all due remorse and anger that Jonathan Pollard is still languishing in prison, it is perhaps best that the problematic deal to secure his release fell through. We must still continue pressing for his release based on the basic principles of elementary humane justice, but not in exchange for releasing murderers and eroding the rule of law in Israel.
We should assume that the Americans, despite the reports, will not withdraw from the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is possible they will be less active in the intermediate future, but after a short while it is safe to envision that regional and domestic political interests, including the administration's prestige, will bring them back with renewed vigor. There are those who believe that Washington must propose its own peace formulas, but considering past experience it is doubtful they will seek to enter a minefield without any assurances of escaping unscathed.
A possible alternate route could have been a combined regional arrangement to also address the Palestinian issue, but the distrust accrued by Washington's traditional regional allies toward it diminishes the chances of such a scenario. It is possible, of course, that Washington, too, will now come to the conclusion that the time is not ripe for a final status agreement solving all the problems and divisions, therefore making it preferable to push for intermediate or partial arrangements (which Israel, too, will not necessarily reject outright). While it is indeed impossible to force the Palestinians, or at least their leaders, to desire peace, but is possible, maybe, to make them understand that time is not on their side.

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