That’s the diplomatic, political charade called “the peace process.” And it is only growing more outrageous with every passing week.
I would like to begin with a superb article – “The Palestinian narrative: The missing link in the ‘peace process’ – by Eric R. Mandel, Founder of the Middle East Political and Information Network. It clearly and cogently identifies underlying fallacies inherent in current attempts to arrive at a “two state solution” (emphasis added):
”Secretary of State Kerry’s well-meaning attempt to forge a framework agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is based on the conventional Western perspective of conflict resolution. Western democratic nations that sign treaties overwhelmingly respect the words on the paper they sign.
”But what happens when western democracies ask a democratic nation to sign a western- style treaty with an adversary that values tribe and clan over the nation-state? What happens when one party’s narrative is almost totally based on the negation of the other? While the media look through conventional glasses at the prospects for an Israeli- Palestinian framework agreement and pose certain questions, the view for those truly interested in a lasting peace should be through a more nuanced lens. Such an analysis raises questions that are more difficult.
”Is a lasting Israel-Palestinian peace achievable if only one side accepts the legitimacy of the other’s narrative? To begin to resolve the conflict, American and Israeli negotiators should consider a western-style treaty only with concurrent recognition of the narratives of both parties. Diplomatic maneuvering, no matter how well meaning, can not lead to a lasting peace in this region without addressing the fundamental narratives of the adversaries.
”…It is essential to understand how Palestinian Arabs think and what they believe. The Palestinian Arab national identity is almost exclusively defined by negating the Israeli narrative, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist as a Jewish state, with precious few positive Palestinian nationalistic qualities.
”Palestinian Arabs mark their historical time by memorializing what others perpetrated upon them. The quintessential narrative marked in time is the ‘Nakba,’ the catastrophe of the creation of the State of Israel.
”Delegitimizing Jewish historical connections to the land extends from mosques to school textbooks, from the PA press to the PA leadership.
”…On a recent trip to the Middle East, I interviewed members of the PA, PLO, Hamas, the Jordanian Parliament, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
”They all shared the same talking points about the Jews living in Israel. Uniformly, Israel is considered a colonialist enterprise – illegally imposed, and populated by foreigners with no legitimate right to the land. Almost all believe that Israel continually commits ‘war crimes,’ targets Arab civilians, and oppresses defenseless native Palestinians.
”Violence committed against Jewish civilians is rationalized as the only legitimate avenue available to an oppressed people.
”This troubling narrative is not confined to Hamas, but is part of the DNA of Palestinian Arabs whether they reside in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Judea, or Samaria.
”Compounding the problem is the western belief that all peoples of the world share its universalistic perspective. It is certainly true that Palestinians want to feed their families and prosper, but the West simply cannot comprehend that any people in the 21st century would choose self-defeating options over economic opportunity.
”If choosing a better life means giving up on the goal of erasing Israel from the map, then unfortunately too many would choose ideology over prosperity.”
I urge you to share this broadly.
The failure of the West to understand the mindset of Muslim/Arab culture and perspectives is an on-going problem. And this problem extends to far more than what is alluded to in this article. There is, for example, the precept in Islam that permits lying and deception for the sake of a larger religious purpose (taqiyya). This behavior, which the Muslim Arab considers fully acceptable within certain parameters, sends a Westerner’s mind into a tailspin. There are still reasonably sophisticated Westerners who do not understand that it is what Abbas says in Arabic to his own people, and not what he says in English for the Western media, that matters.
What the author alludes to regarding ideology trumping prosperity is also significant. There are justifications offered for Muslim Arab violence based on their presumably intolerable situation, which is said to lead to a state of desperation. But studies show that it is not those in despair who are motivated to perpetrate violence, but these imbued with a radical ideology.
And lastly, with regard to cultural perceptions, there is the author’s brief allusion to an adversary that values tribe and clan (hamula) over the nation-state. This carries ramifications that are poorly understood by many. It may, for example, be in the strategic best interest of the PA to take out members of Hamas who foment trouble in Judea and Samaria. But members of the PA security forces will not go after members of Hamas who are in the same clan. It is to that clan and not to the concept of the developing state that they have first loyalty.
Mandel suggests that for the sake of real peace Israelis are willing to show understanding for at least some of the Palestinian Arab perspective – for example, by exhibiting compassion for “the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees who have been used as pawns by autocratic Arab regimes.” (More on these so-called refugees below.)
I would carry this further. Unfortunately, within our Israeli society there are those on the left who have so thoroughly assimilated the Palestinian narrative, post-Oslo, that they have lost their sense of Jewish entitlement in the land. This is a situation to be mourned, and corrected.
And what of that “peace process”?
I am weary almost to the point of tears with the conflicting rumors in the media: Kerry has already released his framework but the parties have pledged not to talk about it; Kerry is having trouble putting together the framework and it might not be ready by late April; the framework will simply advance American ideas and both parties will be able to voice reservations; Kerry may simply settle for a verbal understanding without anything written. And on, and on.
In the end, it will all come to nothing.
As time goes on, what we are seeing is that Abbas continues to harden his positions. Not only is there no compromise, he adds more red lines.
Please see this video from MEMRI of Abbas speaking, just five days ago.
Among the the positions he advances:
 No Israeli presence over the 1967 line. Not a single settlement bloc to remain – every stone placed on the land since 1967 is illegal.
 No recognition of Israel as the Jewish State.
Mandel, in his article, above, makes the case that the Palestinian Arabs cannot accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state because it flies in the face of their narrative. And he is correct. But there is also another reason: It would make it impossible to push on the issue of “Right of Return” (see the next point).
 “Right of Return” for all five million Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants, with Israeli citizenship. A good way to destroy Israel from within.
That “right of return,” in point of fact, does not exist, even though the Arabs refer to it as an “inalienable” right.
The reference point they use for this is United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. This was adopted before the War of Independence was over, and it was opposed by the Arab states because of its implicit recognition of Israel – which the Arab states were still in the process of trying to destroy militarily.
After the war, the Arab states returned to one article of the entire resolution, as “proof” of the “right of return.” Actually, only one clause within that article.
That clause resolved that, “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…”
There immediately followed a host of questions regarding what is a “practicable” date, and, more significantly, whether the refugees would live at peace with their Jewish neighbors – a dubious proposition to say the least. Given that requisite for return, very few would qualify – especially today, as they have been subjected to decades of incitement against Israel.
But that’s just the beginning, because another clause within that very same article instructed, “the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees…” Resettlement? Then clearly this resolution was offering alternatives besides “return” (repatriation) – i.e., “return” was not a “right,” but rather one alternative for resolving the problem of refugees.
Last and most significantly, there is this: This was a General Assembly resolution. The General Assembly makes recommendations only, which are without enforceability or weight in international law.
There are still “refugees,” or the descendants of those refugees – also classified as refugees – almost 65 years after Arabs fled from the newly founded Israel, because UNRWA has vigorously perpetuated this political charade and kept the “refugees” in limbo rather than helping them to resettle.
Given his full set of stipulations, it is clear that Abbas is not going to sign on to a final agreement with Israel, and most likely not on to Kerry’s framework agreement, should he ever produce one. At this point, Abbas has received the backing of the Arab League, which is telling him to “stand firm,” make no concessions, and continue to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
To exacerbate the situation, there is the Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki, who recently declared that “No of us, especially not in Fatah [Mahmoud Abbas’s party], has ruled out the military option. We have not forgotten our principles and goals…” He refers to “our entire legacy of struggle which can be resorted to when the time is right.”
And just days ago, a former PA negotiator, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told AP that “the gaps between the sides are growing rather than shrinking…We don’t have terms of reference, which means we and the Israelis are reading from different books.”
And so, you may ask, Nu? What’s happening on Israel’s part.
Well, our prime minister, who forthrightly and properly tells the world to stop deceiving itself with regard to Iran and face the truth, will not take his own advice in this context.
What Netanyahu is doing – and this continues to be his MO – is to bend over backwards to show the world that he is trying his best to work on possible plans that might succeed.
No point in belaboring it here, but he spoke about how we will have to relinquish some settlements, and then, following a backlash from the right wing of the coalition, said that no, not a single settlement would be dismantled. Most recently he proposed some obscure plan modeled on the very complex border arrangement that exists between Belgium and Holland, with each having enclaves within the other nation; totally inapplicable to our situation.
I do not believe that he believes for a second that any of this will ever materialize, and I find myself with an inclination to run my head into the wall.
I do understand that he anticipates that the PA intends to blame us for the failure of the talks and head for the UN. What he is trying to do is mitigate the negative world responses – both legally and in terms of BDS – that we may have to contend with. But we’re going to get smacked no matter what he does, and I long for him to call a press conference and say, “Enough! Look at the evidence of the failure of PA cooperation.”
There is a great deal more to day, and I will continue in my next posting…
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.