What are the Palestinians' current intentions?

The Palestinians have embarked on a new strategy requiring them to abandon direct negotiations with Israel.

By PAUL HIRSCHSON
December 7, 2011 22:31
3 minute read.
PA President Abbas with PM Netanyahu

PA President Abbas with PM Netanyahu 311 (R). (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

The Palestinians have embarked on a new strategy requiring them to abandon direct negotiations with Israel. The true intent of this strategy is not yet fully apparent but is critical to our understanding of where we, Israel and the West in general, go from here and how we respond.

Twenty years of negotiations, they claim, have led to few results and, out of frustration, they say, they are abandoning negotiations (a violation of agreements between the two parties) and turning to the international community to secure their goal of national self determination.

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It’s an interesting argument which deserves serious attention. After all, Israel too is frustrated at the slow progress of negotiations. If truth be told, everything tangible resulting from negotiations has been beneficial to the Palestinians with little, certainly in the realm of security, for Israel: The entire creation of the Palestinian Authority, the foundation of any future Palestinian Arab state, is a result of negotiations. Everything the Palestinians have developed in terms of the infrastructure of state is a result of negotiation and joint work with Israel and others, primarily in the West – security apparatus; economic growth; physical infrastructure; educational and judicial institutions and reform and more.

There are two alternative motivations for the Palestinians’ decision to “internationalize” rather than negotiate. Neither is particularly attractive but one is better than the other: The worse case scenario is that the Palestinians are committed to the desire to defeat and eliminate Israel.

The idea that the Jewish people have the right to national self determination is anathema to them and, having failed at achieving this goal over 35 years of conventional warfare (1948 through 1982) or some 40 years of a terror campaign (1972 Munich Olympics to the present), they now turn to a sophisticated campaign to undermine the Jewish People’s very right to national self determination with an assault on Israel’s legitimacy in the international arena.

First the Palestinians apply for, and in some cases receive, membership in international forums. Then, concurrent to a campaign in the academia, media and humanitarian organizations, they inject their assault on Israel into law courts and corporate boardrooms, with calls for boycotts, sanctions, divestment, indictments and isolation.

Difficult, and dangerous, as this campaign may be, the desire to eliminate Israel this route will ultimately fail as did the two prior strategies. At the end of the day, the Jewish people’s claim to national self determination is fundamentally justified.

The alternative scenario is different and, being an optimist, it is incumbent upon us to evaluate whether this is where the Palestinians are as we may be able to retrieve a sense of proportion and a ray of light. It goes like this: The Palestinians have finally understood that direct negotiations will inevitably lead them, as well as (or perhaps better put, not only) the Israelis, to making extremely difficult compromises. Compromises which they, as we, are not excited about making but that we will, both of us, have to make.

Having reached this understanding, but unlike the Israelis who despite also not necessarily liking it have accepted it, the Palestinians are trying to find a way to attain their espoused goal – national self determination – without making the requisite, admittedly extremely difficult, compromises they now understand are required. Negotiations become undesirable for the Palestinians.

This strategy too will fail. The Palestinians can never reach the criteria requisite to having anything more than a virtual state without working with the Israelis in its establishment. Suffering, on both sides and, sadly, increased ill-will, may be achieved.

Nonetheless, if this, rather than the worse case, scenario is where the Palestinians are – an honest, collective, not necessarily liked but accepting of the Jewish people’s right to national self determination and a pure focus on securing their aspiration for the same – then we can have something to work with.

After all, the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state is the stated policy of the government of Israel. It will take tough, honest, direct negotiations resulting in extremely difficult concessions, by both sides, including mutual recognition.

There is no other way.


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