(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The Middle East was hit by a winter storm this week, but not the kind anyone was expecting. It came in the form of a downpour of documents, as Al-Jazeera and the Guardian began publishing internal Palestinian papers relating to the negotiations that were leaked by unknown sources.
The cache, which is said to include more than 1,600 notes and memos, provides an inside look, from the Palestinian perspective, at more than a decade of talks. Needless to say, despite the fuss being made by much of the media, there was little in the way of new disclosures, at least in the materials released as of this writing.
Virtually all of the so-called concessions made by the Palestinians had previously been accounted for in reports that emerged over the years. As Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post rightly pointed out, “Anyone familiar with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last decade will find nothing surprising about the supposed revelations.”
Nonetheless, that has not stopped various people on the Left from seizing upon the publication of the documents as proof that the Palestinian leadership is serious about peace. This, they say, demonstrates that there is a way forward.
For example, Akiva Eldar, writing in Haaretz, asserted that “the leaked documents completely discredit the claim that there is ‘no peace partner.’” They are, he insisted, “testimony that the Palestinians are willing to go the distance for peace.”
Representatives of Israeli peace groups released a statement declaring that the documents “have proven that there is a Palestinian partner to a comprehensive peace plan and the Israeli government must prove that it too is a partner.”
I HATE to break it to my progressive countrymen, but this is complete and utter hogwash. Instead of analyzing the documents, they appear to be imposing their own wishful thinking on their contents, in the process drawing faulty and even dangerous conclusions.
For instance, one of the leaked documents suggests that the Palestinians agreed to concede Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Various left-wing commentators singled out this “concession” in particular, hailing it as a monumental gesture by the Palestinians, who seemed ready to forgo their claim to the eastern part of the capital.
Frankly, I am underwhelmed.
To begin with, the offer has no practical meaning, for the simple reason that the Palestinians do not control these areas. The Israeli flag already flies proudly over all of Jerusalem and so it will remain.
More importantly, however, such “concessions” were contingent on Israel agreeing to hand over alternative territories in their stead. In other words, the Palestinians agreed to forgo areas they do not control in exchange for territory that is not theirs. Just how exactly is that a concession?
If someone says he won’t try to seize an item that belongs to you in exchange for you giving him something else in return, would anyone in their right mind agree to such a deal?
But even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the contention that this was a major concession, there is another problem that arises. After all, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now refusing to return to the negotiating table because Israel will not freeze construction in eastern Jerusalem.
If the Palestinians are truly ready to concede these areas, then why would it matter if Israel goes ahead and builds there? If their concession was sincere, and their desire for peace was real, then they would not let a few apartment buildings stand in the way of resuming talks.
And then there is the issue of refugees. According to another leaked document, Palestinian negotiators indicated a readiness to accept the symbolic “return” of just 1,000 refugees a year over 10 years. This was far less than their public demand that Israel allow in all of the refugees.
And yet, in another cable from March 2009, Abbas acknowledged that “on numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million, or indeed one million. That would mean the end of Israel.”
Once again, the question arises: is this really a concession? It is no different than if the Palestinians were to say: we do not expect Israel to commit suicide, so we will not demand that it do so. Gee, now isn’t that generous of them.
The fact of the matter is that the notion of Palestinian moderation is a figment of the Left’s imagination and a fanciful falsehood that bears little resemblance with reality.
Indeed, how quickly they forget: It was just three years ago that prime
minister Ehud Olmert offered to divide Jerusalem and give the
Palestinians a state that would have encompassed more than 90 percent of
Judea and Samaria. And it was just a decade ago that prime minister
Ehud Barak made a similarly generous proposal at Camp David. In neither
case did the Palestinian leadership agree to a deal.
If there is a
lesson to be learned from the Palestinian version of WikiLeaks – call
it Wiki-Palestine if you wish – it is to be found in a remarkably
revealing statement made by none other than chief negotiator Saeb
Erekat. In a meeting with an American official, Erekat is reported to
have said that “Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t
trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than
And therein lies the root cause of the ongoing
conflict: As much as we might long for peace, our foes just do not seem
to want it as badly.