Over the years, I have been publishing ever-expanding lists of the "elephants in the room" that would make it impossible to have a real peace. Here they are, updated with more elephants than ever:
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 is consistently and wholeheartedly against Israel's existence. Peace is impossible with this elephant, so it is easier to pretend it isn't there. (See also Elephant 11.) 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.Pollafterpoll 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. The current PA president is well past his term of office, and the current prime minister was never elected (in fact, he received a tiny percentage of the vote when he did run for election.) Negotiating with the PA is, literally, meaningless.
Similarly, the unelected PLO is the real power behind the PA. The PA officially reports to the PLO, and all negotiations are done by the autocratic, Fatah-dominated PLO, not the PA. Elephant 4: The current PA government has almost no power - and no respect 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. (The bulk of the PA budget goes to Gaza, and much of that goes to workers being paid not to work.) Elephant 6: Fatah remains a terrorist group paid by the PA Despite therecent claimsthat 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. The Al Aqsa Brigades continues to make statement and claim credit for terror attacks, even in 2010. Elephant 7: The first - and second - stages of the roadmap were never implemented The entire point of theroad map was to slowly build confidence, starting with the end of terror and incitement on the Palestinian Arab side, afterwards building a"provisional" stateand 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.
Even though the US has made statements against Palestinian Arab incitement, it hasn't moved to stop it. 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. One only needs to look at the maps of "Palestine" in official PA documents and schoolbooks. 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 at among the fastest rates in the world. 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 todestroy Israel in stages.
Elephant 16: A unilateral Palestinian Arab state would be militarized
There is no way that a new Palestinian Arab state would remain demilitarized for any length of time. The Palestinian government could invite Syria to position anti-aircraft weapons within its territory; to shoot missiles at El Al planes landing a few miles from the Green Line, or to get a few thousand tanks poised to cut Israel in half.
Iran already effectively controls Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. They would use the nascent state of Palestine to position themselves on the West Bank as well. Just like the PA ran away from Gaza at the first sign of trouble, so would they abandon their state to Iranian proxies and Islamic terrorists.
Their will to defend themselves is not nearly as strong as their will to destroy Israel, a desire that has been inculcated in them for generations. Palestinian Arab nationalism is a fundamentally weak and externally-imposed construct. Iran is poised and anxious to take advantage of the chaos that would follow a unilaterally declared state.
But the West is ready to risk Israel for that elephant as well.
Elephant 17: The so-called "right to return"
The PA is showing no interest in integrating the Palestinian Arabs outside of the territories into their state. On the contrary; the "refugee camps" in PA controlled territory continue to grow, rather than shrink. Clearly, the PA expects the bulk of the "diaspora" to go to Israel, not a Palestinian Arab state, and decades of incitement both within and without the territories have brainwashed generations of Arabs to not accept anything less than a "return" to a land that most of them have never stepped foot in.
Elephant 18: The tension between being pro-West and pro-Arab
The biggest Western success story in the Palestinian Arab territories is the existence of the "Dayton forces" that have been helping crack down on Hamas in the West Bank.
However, most Palestinian Arabs regard those forces as puppets of the West. Not only do Hamas and Islamic Jihad hammer away at this point, but ordinary Palestinian Arabs do as well. The more cooperation between the PA and Israel/US, the more the PA government is delegitimized in the eyes of its people.
Elephant 19: Corruption and human rights abuses are still endemic in the PA
Despite the publicized successes, the PA remains mired in corruption, hardly a model for an independent state. The 2008 Global Integrity Report rated the West Bank as close to the bottom in its corruption ratings. Press freedom remains low; the justice system is improving but hardly competent, and whistle-blowers are forced to go to the Israeli press to expose corruption. The success that the PA has had in weakening Hamas in the West Bank has come at the expense of massive human rights violations, including torture.
Elephant 20: Palestine would be Judenrein
Statements by PA leaders (with the notable exception of Fayyad) make it clear that their state of Palestine would not have any Jewish citizens allowed within. Jews whose ancestors have lived in Judea and Samaria, whether for decades or for millennia, will be legally barred from living in Palestine - an extraordinary display of state anti-semitism that is completely at odds with the Western standards that the nascent state of "Palestine" is attempting to live up to.
Elephant 21: The Muslim world's antipathy towards Israel
Even if all of the preceding elephants could somehow vanish, the Arab world and the Muslim world remains implacably against the idea of a Jewish state in the midst of supposedly Muslim lands. Iran remains in de facto control of southern Lebanon and Gaza; ordinary Jordanians and Egyptians remain among the worst anti-semites in the Arab world. The best "peace" would be bitter cold; it will not include any real normalization, and the threat from radical Islam remains potent in Arab and Muslim states. Furthermore, any tension between Israel and any of its neighbors - Hezbollah or Hamas or Syria - would result in even the moderate Arab world solidly behind Israel's enemies, no matter what. The best peace plan would result in Israel being exactly where it is today - surrounded by enemies, with less of a land buffer, and Israel relying on US money to prompt Arab neighbors to keep radicals in check.
Osama Saeed Bhutta has joined Amnesty International as communications director , after leaving Al Jazeera earlier this year. Here are...
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