If you want to understand what's really going on in the alleged Israel-Palestinian peace process, beyond the eternal babble that progress is being made - it's all Israel's fault, all that's needed are just a few more concessions to the Palestinian side and everyone is working hard on it - here's what you need to know.
For the present, the Palestinian leadership isn't interested in pursuing negotiations because it has a different strategy which it considers to be much better: get everything it wants from others without making any concessions to Israel.
First, the Palestinian Authority has just come very close to obtaining a European Union resolution which made it sound like an independent Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem was a fait accompli. After all, if Europe recognizes Palestine as independent, who needs Israel's agreement? All the PA thinks it would have to do is to demand that Israel leave its sovereign land and expect the EU to back it up.
The rejection of the Swedish-sponsored proposal by more moderate European states, however, staved this off this resolution, along with a US reminder that this kind of issue was supposed to be resolved in a negotiated agreement between the PA and Israel.
But doesn't this make such a strategy seem realistic, only needing a few more months or another year or two to succeed? The PA no doubt drew hope - albeit erroneously so - from this experience that one day soon, as long as it keeps rejecting a negotiated settlement, the EU will back its position completely and give it a state on a silver platter.
THE OTHER front is the UN. On December 15, a meeting of the Fatah leadership will discuss and probably endorse a plan to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, with no preconditions.
In the words of one council member, Munib Masri: "We will ask the UN Security Council to endorse a two-state solution with east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, to compensate Palestinian refugees and affirm their right to return to their homeland." There is a very interesting phrase at the end of that statement. Masri was referring to the Palestinian demand that all refugees and their descendants be able live in Israel if they want to do so, a formula for massive violence, chaos and civil war.
Of course, that's precisely what the PA wants - and will never get. What this shows, though, is that its idea of a "two-state solution" is merely a transitional step toward wiping Israel off the map - the real goal and the reason why there isn't any peace.
By defining all of Israel as the Palestinian homeland, or at least a part of it, Masri demonstrates that the two-state solution is not a serious Palestinian goal. If it were, a West Bank-Gaza Strip-east Jerusalem state would be defined as the homeland.
Of course, he adds: "If Israel remains steadfast in building settlements, then we will seek a one-state solution that is based on a timetable." Masri and others in the PA don't give Israel any credit for the settlement freeze.
Like all Israeli concessions, it is pocketed and then denounced as insufficient, certainly not as warranting any reciprocal Palestinian gesture.
WHAT'S REALLY amusing here is the kind of reversal of logic nobody would be able to get away with outside the Alice in Wonderland world of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Essentially, the reasoning goes like this: We will refuse to make peace unless Israel gives us a Palestinian state without preconditions and in a situation where we can then go after Israel itself. And if Israel doesn't agree to this, we will just escalate our demands further!
Masri himself is a mainstream Fatah guy, a member of the friends-of-Yasser-Arafat faction which still dominates both Fatah and the PA, the people on whom PA leader Mahmoud Abbas depends on to stay in power.
Far from being a ragged radical, Masri is not only one of the richest Palestinians but one of the wealthiest people in the world. In other words, he's the sort of fellow who would be expected to want a stable moderate solution as fast as possible in order to make more money and face less risk of losing it through war or a Hamas takeover.
Yet the attractiveness of unilateralism for Masri and others is understandable. Why make a deal that might require recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, taking a bit less territory on the West Bank or having to swap some pieces of land providing Israel with security guarantees, giving up the dream of total victory and Israel's elimination and accepting limits on your military forces when you can just demand, and possibly get, everything you want from the US, Europe, the UN or the international community in general?
This is also an ideal strategy in domestic Palestinian terms since any concessions are unpopular. If Fatah and the PA want to make up with Hamas, avoiding any concessions is vital. And if they don't want Hamas to make political capital out of their "treasonous moderation," the same point applies.
Of course, that means the conflict will continue, people will die, Palestinians will continue to be (or at least will be perceived as) suffering and everything can be blamed on Israeli intransigence. There would be no peace and no Palestinian state, but that better suits the PA's current strategy.
Is it really so hard to understand that this is what is really happening? The PA is not desperately eager for a deal. The construction of apartments is not the roadblock to peace. The PA and Fatah have very good reasons from their standpoint for not wanting to make progress.
Of course, this means in part that the rest of the world is enablers - to use the current term for those who help someone maintain a harmful addiction -
permitting the continuation of the illusion that there is some solution other than either the status quo or a fair, negotiated deal.