US Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 19 announcement of the renewal of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks will mark, inevitably, the beginning of the third intifada. When the upcoming talks break down, the Palestinian people will resort to their default tactic: violence.
For the talks will indeed fail, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to make the necessary concessions to forge an end-of-conflict accord even if he wanted to, which he does not. Even the Hamas terror organization, which rules over nearly half of the Palestinian population and which would in a matter of weeks take over the West Bank if Israel ever withdrew from the territory stated the obvious: namely, that Abbas has no legitimacy to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.
The frustration on the Palestinian side over yet another failed statehood bid will ultimately manifest itself in more bloodshed.
There is no rational reason to believe otherwise, as the two-decades-long peace process has been a monumental failure at every step; marked by intermittent fruitless negotiations, followed by lengthy periods of Palestinian terror.
In fact, the only difference between past and present initiatives is that the Palestinian populace has over time become even more radicalized – inculcated by its leadership with a rabid strain of anti-Semitic rejectionism – with most now favoring Hamas’ platform, a tenet of which is the annihilation of Israel.
It speaks volumes about the arrogant and false calculus of Western diplomats, as well as their overall fundamental misunderstanding of the region, that they could possibly think that the 21st year’s a charm; for which there is ample evidence to the contrary.
Most notably Israel, once again, was forced to make up-front concessions to the Palestinians simply to get them back to the table in order to negotiate the state they supposedly crave. The government initially agreed to release 84 Palestinian prisoners, described by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz as “heavyweights” (a euphemism for having Israeli “blood on their hands”). This, however, was insufficient for the PA, and, amid rumors Abbas was considering backing out of the talks, Israel subsequently upped the number of murderers to be freed to over 100.
The “rationale” behind such “goodwill” gestures is that they boost Abbas’ profile, which, in turn, is said to enable him to shore up the support of the “Palestinian street.” This is the same “street,” mind you, that on Sunday, just hours after the prisoner release was approved by the Israeli Cabinet, held violent protests in Ramallah against the renewal of negotiations.
Not only does this discredit the notion that the Palestinians are committed to peaceful co-existence with Israel, but it makes a mockery of Western ideals. That democratic, “progressive” leaders could coerce Israel into freeing terrorists is disgraceful; being more proof of the futility of trying to appease the Palestinians, the pursuit of which has forced the West to adopt the same backwards mindset that has stunted progress in Arab-Islamic countries for decades.
And that is why the peace process has no chance of succeeding. Its premise – two states for two peoples – is based on the unfounded belief that the Palestinians are prepared to live side-by-side a Jewish state.
The Palestinian leadership will thus use the upcoming talks merely to enhance and solidify its existing bargaining positions.
To this end multiple reports, including one by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, have claimed the PA is insisting that the first item to be discussed – and agreed upon by both sides – is the question of the borders of a future Palestinian state.
This conflicts with the Israeli position that negotiations should encompass all final-status issues together.
Clearly, pursuant to such strategy, once the borders of “Palestine” are roughly delineated, which will entail Israeli concessions, they will effectively become the new baseline for future Palestinian behavior.
As in the past, when the talks break down, without the Palestinians compromising on other issues, the PA will initiate a propaganda campaign aimed at having the newly defined borders accepted by the international community, if not officially recognized by the United Nations and its associated bodies.
This has been the Palestinian strategy for years and it is how late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s vision of the formation of a semi-autonomous Palestinian non-state – with Israel maintaining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem as well as a longterm military presence in the Jordan Valley – has become grotesquely distorted. It took more than two decades, but the Palestinians’ patience and deception has paid off.
This time around, though, the ramifications of failure could be devastating. The situation in the West Bank was already volatile – nearly at a breaking point – before the renewal of negotiations was announced. On numerous occasions this year, high-ranking Israeli military officials invoked the likelihood of a third Palestinian intifada. Tensions are bound to erupt once the PA again walks away from the talks, blaming Israel for their failure.
In reality, the exact opposite is true. Israel has previously made peace when opportunities presented themselves. The government has formal peace accords with both Egypt and Jordan.
Moreover, Israel has shown a willingness to dismantle settlements – an alleged primary obstacle to peace – in the pursuit of peace; from the Sinai as part of the 1979 accord with Egypt and unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, have never shown a readiness to compromise, and continue to maintain maximalist positions, the foremost being the ludicrous “right of return.” The PA won’t even agree to negotiate independence without demanding concessions from Israel in advance.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu justified the resumption of talks by describing the peace process as a “supreme national interest.” He is correct that it is imperative for Israel to extricate itself from the Palestinians, and, in doing so, disentangle the destiny of the Jewish People’s lone state from that of sworn enemies.
There is, however, no reason why this must necessarily be achieved through the implementation of the “two-state solution.”
There are many other ways for Israel to assert its independence, while, consistent with those hallow words, ensuring that it remains both Jewish and democratic.
That takes strength and resolve, not weakness and appeasement. The sooner Israel says “shalom” to the peace process, the sooner its leaders and supporters can begin devising new ways to better steer the country forward.
Unfortunately, Israel will first likely have to contend with another Palestinian “uprising,” if not an all-out war.
All in the name of an oxymoronic process.The writer is a correspondent for i24 News, a recently launched international news network based in Israel.