In January 2008, I wrote a post called "Ignoring elephants" that listed ten major issues that those who are hellbent on a "peace process" find convenient to ignore. With the new administration's emphasis on this same failed "peace process," it is worthwhile to update it.
Sadly, seventeen months later, it requires very few changes, and we can even add a few.
In the reckless chase for Middle East peace, the number of elephants in the room is increasing exponentially. But the ability of the "peacemakers" to ignore them rises to the occasion.
Elephant 1: Hamas controls Gaza
Every peace plan includes Gaza in a Palestinian Arab state, and none of them has any provision on how to handle the fact that Gaza is a terrorist haven, in much worse shape since Israel uprooted the settlements there, controlled by a terrorist group that has no interest in restraining the even-more extremist terror groups that thrive there. Peace is impossible with this elephant, so it is easier to pretend it isn't there.
Elephant 2: Palestinian Arabs elected a terror government
In the only fair, democratic elections in the territories, the Hamas terrorists were chosen by the people. Poll after poll shows that Palestinian Arabs support terror in Israel itself. The elections proved that the conventional wisdom was wrong - and the conventional wisdom proceeded to ignore it.
Elephant 3: The current PA government was not elected
This corollary to Elephant 2 means that the current people negotiating for the Palestinian Arabs do not represent the people. Even if they sound moderate or compromising, they have no mandate. Negotiating with them is, literally, meaningless.
Elephant 4: The current PA government has almost no power
Outside of Ramallah, the Fayyad/Abbas government has little popular support and little power. Hamas is a very real threat to the PA in the West Bank and is quietly building its base. The attitudes that forced the PA to abandon Gaza - a lack of passion by people for its positions - could very well play out in the West Bank as well.
Elephant 5: The PA is being kept alive by artificial methods
The PA budget is bloated from "payroll" of non-working workers - but if they would slash the payroll, the people on international welfare would revolt. So the very basis of the organized Palestinian Arab workforce is a fiction being kept barely alive by ever-increasing infusions of cash with no real plan to fix the problem.
Elephant 6: Fatah remains a terrorist group paid by the PA
Despite the recent claims that the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has dismantled, it is a joke meant to appease the wishful-thinkers. There has been no serious move by the PA against terror except for its tit-for-tat arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, and its moves have been almost wholly cosmetic and aimed for Western consumption rather than real fighting against terror.
Elephant 7: The first - and second - stages of the roadmap were never implemented
The entire point of the road map was to slowly build confidence, starting with the end of terror and incitement on the Palestinian Arab side, afterwards building a "provisional" state and only then going to final-status negotiations. By skipping to Phase III as if the other two phases were already in place, the entire exercise is simply a joke. Incitement remains at full blast and the slight lull in terror is tactical, not a sea-change in Palestinian Arab attitudes.
Elephant 8: The PA's goal remains the destruction of Israel
Whether it is by "right of return" or not changing the Fatah charter or by printing map after map showing no Israel, even the most moderate Palestinian leader clings to the idea of destroying Israel, and looks upon a Palestinian Arab state as only one stage in the process.
Elephant 9: Jerusalem
Most Israelis want a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Most Palestinian Arabs refuse to accept anything less than all of Jerusalem as the capital of a Muslim state. The positions are not compatible and a compromise will not reduce the chances for violence - it will increase it.
Elephant 10: What happened to Gaza
Forgetting Hamas for now, the time period between Israel's dismantling settlements in Gaza and the Hamas takeover is instructive as to how Palestinian Arabs take advantage of territory they gain. They didn't build new houses or communities to reduce the "refugee camp" population, no schools or hospitals. They destroyed the greenhouses purchased for them by American Jews; they turned beautiful former settlements into training camps for terror - in other words, Israel's last major concession not only didn't help achieve peace, it ended up encouraging terror. Any claims that something similar wouldn't happen in the West Bank is the triumph of wishful thinking over experience.
Elephant 11: Palestinian Arab "unity"
Related to Elephant #1. No peace plan can work unless Hamas and the PA/Fatah reach some sort of unification agreement. This is not possible in the foreseeable future. Moreover, Hamas is powerful enough that any such agreement must include a hardening of positions that would be completely incompatible with the basic demands for peace - renunciation of terror, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements.
Elephant 12: The Palestinian Arab "diaspora" and Arab intransigence
Any final peace agreement would mean that Arab countries could no longer justify keeping Palestinian Arabs in "refugee camps" not could they justify their continued refusal to discriminate against Palestinian Arabs from becoming citizens of their countries should they want to stay. The millions of PalArabs in the Middle East becoming citizens would not be accepted by many Arab countries as it would endanger their own tenuous holds on power.
Elephant 13: Economics
Some 16 years after Oslo, the economy in the territories is still close to non-existent and wholly dependent on foreign aid. Not only is there no free market, there is no incentive to build one as the very mentality of Palestinian Arabs and their leaders is one of welfare rather than responsibility. All the plans to create a Palestinian Arab state do not consider Day 2 and how such a state would be able to sustain itself. The expected influx of hundreds of thousands of people from "refugee camps" would make it even worse. It would take at least a generation to turn the poisonous attitude of entitlement around.
Elephant 14: Gaza demographics
Gazans have no room to expand as their numbers continue to grow. Theoretically they could move to the West Bank but only a small percentage would. This is another Day 2 powder keg that is being ignored in the interests of a "solution" of a "Palestinian state."
Elephant 15: Palestinian Arab leaders never showed interest in independence
The West assumes that the goal is an independent Palestinian Arab state where Arabs no longer have to live under "occupation." But the actions and words of Palestinian Arab leaders have never borne that goal out; they have not worked towards building the institutions and infrastructure that would be necessary in an independent state. Their insistence on "right of return" and "Jerusalem" as issues that must be resolved before independence betray their thought processes - inconsistent with independence (neither of which require those two issues to be resolved) and consistent with a desire to destroy Israel in stages.