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As someone who supports the existence of Israel as a strong Jewish state, and the rights of Palestinians (and all people) to live in peace with full citizenship rights, I have read with interest both the news coverage of the so-called "Palestine Papers," and the resulting diaries here on DKos. One area of controversy is why, assuming the PA's territory-for-peace offer was as described, Israel turned it down so summarily. I've seen the explanations offered by some here, involving Israel's alleged colonialism and unwillingness to negotiate, but those reactions in fact demonstrate the likely true reason: Israel knew the PA could never follow through on its offer.

The allegations arising out of the Palestine Papers suggest a major, unprecedented shift in the potential willingness of the Palestinian Authority to cede claims to Jerusalem in exchange for a peace deal. (This is something that I have argued here would be absolutely critical for any successful peace.) Assuming (as I do) that Israel's response was not entirely or even significantly based on bad faith, what other reason could there be for the flat out rejection and failure to even mention the offer in public? It's clear to me: the Israelis knew full well that there was no way that the PA could ever make good on such an offer, as its own populace would never support it, so it was essentially irrelevant to the progress of the negotiations.

Just look at the reaction to the disclosure by Al Jazeera. Rather than simply trumpeting the disclosure as an example of Israel's intransigence, Saeb Erekat, the PA's chief negotiator, says that the release makes him out as a "traitor," and that the leaks are false. UCLA Professor Saree Makdisi, in an editorial in the LA Times, writes in part,

The major revelation from the documents, indeed, is the illustration they furnish of just how far the Palestinian negotiators were willing to go to placate Israel.

Men like Saeb Erekat, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei — the lead Palestinian negotiators in all these years — are of a type that has come forth in every colonial conflict of the modern age. Faced with the overwhelming brute power with which colonial states have always sought to break the will of indigenous peoples, they inhabit the craven weakness that the situation seems to dictate. Convinced that colonialism cannot be defeated, they seek to carve out some petty managerial role within it from which they might benefit, even if at the expense of their people.

These men, we must remember, were not elected to negotiate an agreement with Israel. They have no legitimacy, offer zero credibility and can make no real claim to represent the views of Palestinians.

And yet they were apparently willing to bargain away the right that stands at the very heart of the Palestinian struggle, a right that is not theirs to surrender — the right of return of Palestinians to the homes from which they were forced during the creation of Israel in 1948 — by accepting Israel's insistence that only a token few thousand refugees should be allowed to return, and that the millions of others should simply go away (or, as we now learn that the U.S. suggested, accept being shipped away like so much lost chattel to South America).

Kossack Heathlander similarly condemns the PA's negotiators in his diary about the Palestinian Papers:

Most of the Arab world’s anger so far has been directed not at the Israeli government but at the PA. This makes sense: Arabs take Israeli rejectionism for granted. Unlike many liberals in Europe and America, they cannot afford the luxury of delusions about our ally’s role in the region. The PA’s collaboration has also long been clear, but the extent of the betrayal revealed in the documents is nauseating. They record Abbas greeting Condoleeza "birth pangs" Rice with, "[y]ou bring back life to the region when you come." "I would vote for you", senior negotiator Ahmed Qureia told Livni; Ariel Sharon was my "friend", Abbas enthused. We already knew about the PA’s collaboration with the US and Israel to overthrow Hamas; its support for the Gaza siege; its close cooperation with the Israeli military; and its diplomatic manoeuvres to bury the UN inquiry into the 2008-9 Gaza massacre. These new leaks promise to reveal how PA "leaders were privately tipped off" in advance about the Gaza massacre – something previous leaks have already confirmed.

Seumas Milne, in The Guardian, goes so far as to fondly reminisce about the days of the PLO as a purely terrorist organization, which was "Yasser Arafat's heyday":

It's a tragedy for the Palestinian people that at a time when their cause is the focus of greater global popular support than ever in their history, their own political movements to win their rights are in such debilitating disarray. That has been one of the clearest messages from the cache of leaked documents al-Jazeera and the Guardian have published over the past few days. It's not just the scale of one-sided concessions – from refugees to illegal settlements – offered by Palestinian negotiators and banked for free by their Israeli counterparts. The constant refrain of ingratiating desperation is in some ways more shocking. While Israel's Tzipi Livni rejects the offer to hand over vast chunks of Jerusalem as insufficient – adding "but I really appreciate it" – and Condi Rice muses over resettling Palestinian refugees in South America, the chief PLO negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is reduced to begging for a "figleaf".

It's a study in the decay of what in Yasser Arafat's heyday was an authentic national liberation movement. Try to imagine the Vietnamese negotiators speaking in such a way at the Paris peace talks in the 70s – or the Algerian FLN in the 60s – and it's obvious how far the West Bank Palestinian leadership has drifted from its national moorings.

Here too (per the AP) is Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO member:

The report is bound to inflame Palestinian public opinion, said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"Palestinian opinion is still quite adamant about Palestinian rights," she said. Palestinians "are not willing to entertain, if this is true, any of the compromises that were revealed in the documents."

Contrast this with Israel's repeated and actual granting of land it actually held for peace, with forced withdrawal of its often protesting citizens, from Sinai and even Gaza. Further, most of the world takes it as a given that Israel must and will withdraw from even more of its annexed and controlled territory for peace with the Palestinians and Syrians. For that matter, when Barak offered significant concessions even on Jerusalem and refugees at Camp David in 2000, and Arafat (perhaps no longer in his "heyday") rejected them, the rejection was in spite of the fact that Olmert would and could have carried through on his offer had it been accepted.

Whatever Abbas and his negotiators may have said, as per the Palestinian Papers, was never going to turn into reality, and the Israelis knew it. If a significant offer of land concessions that is likely to move the peace process ahead is considered "betrayal" rather than "leadership" by the Palestinian people, and if (as Ashrawi asserts) those people are "not willing to entertain" the compromises that must form the basis of any successful final agreement, that then it's true: Israel has no Palestinian partner for peace. That's the true revelation of the Palestinian Papers. {ProfJonathan}

Originally posted to JonathanEzor on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:24 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mll, JNEREBEL, LanceBoyle, volleyboy1, Mets102

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." -- Voltaire (Find me on Twitter as @ProfJonathan}

    by ProfJonathan on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:24:30 AM PST

  •  Easy enough to prove (23+ / 0-)

    It's clear to me: the Israelis knew full well that there was no way that the PA could ever make good on such an offer, as its own populace would never support it, so it was essentially irrelevant to the progress of the negotiations.

    This convenient theory is quite easy to prove.  You have 1,700 released secret documents.  Please find the ones were Olmert, Livni, Netanyahu, etc, say:

    Thank you, Mr. Erekat.  This offer is everything we could possibly want and more, and we have no more demands.  However, we highly doubt that you can deliver.  Prove to us you can deliver on these promises, and you will have your own state by this time tomorrow.

    If that was the Israeli position, it should be self-evident in the documents. Of course, from all the documents I've seen, the Israelis took the Palestinian positions as starting points and made further demands from there.  Thus completely undercuts your logic, since if the PA could not deliver on the offers it made, it could certainly not deliver on the further demands Israel made.

    Your position complete conflicts with the reality documented in the Palestine Papers.  

    "How did you go bankrupt?" "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly." - Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

    by weasel on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:39:28 AM PST

    •  What about the reality of the leak response? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JNEREBEL, volleyboy1, Mets102

      You (as always) assume the best of the Palestinians, and the worst of the Israelis. Are you then denying how the leak has been accepted, or suggesting that all of the examples I cite above are atypical of the overall Palestinian view of such an offer by Abbas?

      There is history of Israel ceding territory for peace, territory it won in battle, it actually controlled, and on which its citizens lived. There is no such history from the Palestinians, and no indication that such a move would be accepted by the Palestinian populace. {ProfJonathan}

      "The perfect is the enemy of the good." -- Voltaire (Find me on Twitter as @ProfJonathan}

      by ProfJonathan on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:43:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been arguing this for a while now: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kickemout, volleyboy1

    Unfortunately, peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian governments will never resolve the crisis, because a significant number of Israelis and Palestinians will never abide by their terms and keep the peace.

    Majorities on both sides could accept peace terms, but there would still be no peace. There would still be some extremists (Right-wing Israeli settler militias, Hamas-inclined Palestinians) on both sides to renew the violence. All it takes is a few to sabotage any peace agreement.

    The al-Jazeera papers show the peace talks going on under the Bush and Obama administrations have been at least empty posturing and at worst a cruel hoax perpetrated upon the world.

    •  With respect, I disagree. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mll, volleyboy1, Mets102

      While there would certainly be some Israelis who objected to a land-for-peace deal, by contrast there is no sign that a majority of Palestinians would accept such a deal, and the current events argue against that. {ProfJonathan}

      "The perfect is the enemy of the good." -- Voltaire (Find me on Twitter as @ProfJonathan}

      by ProfJonathan on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 09:44:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  With respect to both of you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        because I think there are elements of truth both ways. I agree that the current Palestinian Polity would not accept the deal, but, I think at the time Abbas and Co. could have made it work. At the same time, The Israeli polity would have had to have a deal like this (particularly the security aspects) to make it work for them.

        Lance is right though.. there would not be peace even if the deal had been accepted. Extremists on both sides would have tried to wreck it. That said, it is still worth the try. Peace is a hard struggle - no one said it would be easy.

        I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

        by volleyboy1 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:13:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Rabin was assassinated for (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          crose, ohmyheck

          earnestly pursuing peace-- some elements in Israeli society saw what he was doing as a "betrayal." I see nothing to indicate those elements have changed their mind.

          Abbas has very little solid support among Palestinians, many of whom see his administration as corrupt and too soft towards Israel-- they would rather be led by Hamas.

          A SUSTAINABLE peace cannot be negotiated at this time in history; there is not enough consensus among either Israelis or Palestinians to accept and keep peace.

          Netanyahu knows this, and finds encouragement in it; he would rather not meet the terms necessary to achieve a peace treaty, anyway. He knows it is enough to go through the charade of peace talks in order to give the Americans the pretext to continue their strategic partnership with Israel.

          And Clinton, Bush, and Obama knew the "road map to Peace" charade was necessary in order to perpetuate the illusion that the US still had the power to broker a peace agreement in the Middle East.

          The Al-Jazeera papers expose the charade, and that is a good thing. Everyone can stop pretending now.

          •  Well Lance I can't totally agree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but I think you are more right than wrong. I am not sure that I think everything was a "charade" or I accept that interpretation BUT... I can't disagree with your commentary about the situation in general.

            I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

            by volleyboy1 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:53:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  right (24+ / 0-)

    Because for so long Israel has cared so much about Palestinian public opinion in crafting its policies.

    Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one: the status quo is far preferable to Israel--it can push its boundaries farther and farther east, and nobody will stop them.

  •  Thank you, AIPAC. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well." Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor, Nuremberg.

    by Wayward Son on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:20:14 AM PST

  •  Prof... I T &R'd you for the work put in (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JNEREBEL, jrooth, ProfJonathan, Mets102

    plus I have some of the same commentary myself... HOWEVER, I will disagree with one major thing here.

    Whether or not Israel has a "partner for peace" and whether the P.A. could have gotten support for this is immaterial. The reason is on Israel. Israel has been saying to the International community for years that it is willing to jump through hoops (so to speak) for Peace. It needs to back that up.

    In one fell swoop Israel could have completely nailed down and shut up everyone who ever argued that they really didn't want peace, by going with this. AND let's say the P.A. did live up to it's word... What problems would a de-militarized state in the West Bank pose? Israel proved it could easily win a war with the PLO. If they were to support terror (a la Intifada II) Israel could move in and that would be the end of that.

    I think they need to take a chance on peace but now with this lot in power.. good luck there. I think in 2008 pre-Cast lead - the P.A. could have pulled this off... Now, no way. This could have been Israel living up to Eban's famous quote... "Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".

    I'm not a little giant... I'm a freakin' leprechaun

    by volleyboy1 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:32:14 AM PST

    •  I don't disagree. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JNEREBEL, volleyboy1, Mets102

      In theory, assuming that the offer was as described, I too am dismayed that Israel did not jump at the chance to move this forward. As you know, I was commenting here on the clear indication that the reported PA offer had little or no support from the people from whom it was supposed to be coming. {ProfJonathan}

      "The perfect is the enemy of the good." -- Voltaire (Find me on Twitter as @ProfJonathan}

      by ProfJonathan on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 11:01:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So what? (12+ / 0-)

    You think the Israelis were justified in refusing because the offer was too generous?

    And how did Israel respond?  They asked for more.  It seems obvious that, if you don't believe that Abbas can deliver ABC, you don't ask for ABCD.

    You say you are assuming that Israel is acting in good faith.  Where's the good faith?  How would a good faith negotiator respond to an offer that is insanely generous?

    The definition of bad faith:  pretending to be negotiating a deal that you will never, under any circumstances, accept.

    Candidate Obama was right: When both parties serve the same side in the class war, voters may as well cling to guns and religion. Bitter since 2010.

    by happymisanthropy on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:35:23 AM PST

  •  Pffffft! (6+ / 0-)

    Well nobody told us about the Israeli crystal ball!

    . . . the likely true reason: Israel knew the PA could never follow through on its offer.

    Who knew?  ISRAEL knew!  "Eeny-meeny chili-beany - the spirits are about to speak!"

    I support the Palestinians, so I may be suspended OR BANNED for it without notice or explanation.

    by Celtic Merlin on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 10:57:22 AM PST

  •  Giant FAIL. (5+ / 0-)

    How long are people going to tolerate this nonsense?

    Here's Tzipi Livni's response to a security question:

    When Mr Erekat asked Ms Livni: "Short of your jet fighters in my sky and your army on my territory, can I choose where I secure external defence?". She replied: "No. In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you have to choose not to have the right of choice afterwards. These are the basic pillars."

    Get that?

    You have to agree NOW that you will have no choice in the future.

    Does that sound in the least bit sincere to you, ProfJonathan?  Is that bargaining in good faith?

    It doesn't look like it to me.

    As I said, you argument is a fail and just another in a long line of insincere rhetoric, imo.

    Cynicism is voter suppression we do to ourselves. h/t Errol

    by kafkananda on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 01:12:42 PM PST

  •  So your argument is.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that Israel was negotiating in good faith

    and they knew all along that PA could never deliver on its promises

    but they kept on negotiating anyway and asked for more


    that would mean that they were negotiating in bad faith.

    Now not-really-blogging from Sheikh Jarrah

    by ignatz uk on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 06:43:02 AM PST

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