Monday, March 03, 2014

  • Monday, March 03, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
President Obama plans to channel Peace Now in his talk with Binyamin Netanyahu today, in this interview by Jeffrey Goldberg:

John Kerry, somebody who has been a fierce advocate and defender on behalf of Israel for decades now, I think he has been simply stating what observers inside of Israel and outside of Israel recognize, which is that with each successive year, the window is closing for a peace deal that both the Israelis can accept and the Palestinians can accept -- in part because of changes in demographics; in part because of what's been happening with settlements; in part because Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue. We do not know what a successor to Abbas will look like.
This is the crux of Obama's arguments. And Israel has been terrible at countering them.

When the problem is not defined correctly, one cannot find a solution. The reason that there is no peace is because the vast majority of the Western world defines the problem incorrectly.

1) "Changes in demographics" - this argument has been around since at least the 1970s. Yet every Israeli-proposed peace plan, as well as the Clinton parameters, ends this issue completely. In fact, even if Israel annexes the entire Area C and the 40% of the remainder of the West Bank is turned over to the PLO - obviously not a viable solution either, but for argument's sake - the demographic issue is dead, since 96% or more of Palestinian Arabs live in Areas A and B.

In other words, the demographic argument is not the correct frame of reference. The correct frame of reference is to answer a very simple question: Why have Palestinian Arabs have rejected all previous peace plans that would have given them a state?

2) "What's been happening with settlements" - As I have noted before, Israel has officially allowed a grand total of three new settlements since 1990, under the Shamir government and years before Oslo.

The idea that Israeli settlements are expanding inexorably is one of the biggest lies of the Middle East, and it is one that even the President of the United States believes. Sure, the Jewish population has been growing, inside Area C, which is allowed under existing agreements signed by both parties. But essentially all that population growth has been accompanied by no growth in area.

Abbas knows this fact far better than Obama does, and apparently far better than Jeffrey Goldberg does. Because if the settlements really were inexorably growing, then Abbas would be panicking that time is not on his side, and he would compromise and accept far less than the unreasonable demands he is making. However, his thoughts on the matter were crystallized in 2009, when Abbas said that he is willing to wait for everyone else to come around to his way of thinking. "I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements. Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life." Erekat that same year made much the same points.

3) "We do not know what a successor to Abbas will look like."

Now, who suffers the most when Palestinian Arabs are willing to wait until Washington pressures Israel to give up a couple of percentage points of more land?

The Palestinian Arabs who live in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East, that's who. They are in limbo while Abbas waits. Over 2000 have been killed in Syria while Abbas waits. Those in Lebanon are choking in their overcrowded camps while Abbas waits. Those in Jordan - even those who are citizens - are living second class lives and nervous about their status while Abbas waits.

If Mahmoud Abbas, Obama's great hope for peace, doesn't feel a sense of urgency to help his people in Arab countries, what does that say about his priorities? What does that say about his leadership?

More importantly, what does that say about his strategy?

If Israel says that Jerusalem is a red line, that a Jewish presence must remain in Hebron and Bethlehem and elsewhere to ensure safe, continuous access to holy sites, and if the borders are created to reflect all of that, there is no demographic problem. Time is no longer an issue. But, as Obama says, there has to be a plan that "the Palestinians can accept." If they are the weaker party, why are they acting like they are the ones that can dictate terms of the agreement? Why, specifically, is Jerusalem necessary for a viable Palestinian Arab state when it was never the capital of any Arab state in history?

There is only one way to explain all these anomalies: why Abbas is willing to wait, why he doesn't care about his people, why he insists on Jerusalem, why he insists on "1967 lines," why he insists on "right of return," why he adamantly refuses to accept a Jewish state.

The reason is because he is not interested in a permanent peace, but he is trying to implement the PLO's "stages" plan to destroy Israel piece by piece. Obama (and Goldberg) might be deluded and think that a piece of paper can ensure that this long standing PLO plan cannot come to be, but it is clearly still the strategy that Abbas and Fatah are following. And it is the narrative that Abbas has been teaching his own people, in Arabic. Instead of preparing them for permanent peace with Israel the majority of Arabs all see any peace plan as only the beginning of the destruction of Israel.

They are willing to wait to accomplish this. but they are not willing to accept any plan that stands in the way of that goal. And that is why accepting any Israeli proposed peace plan, one that ensures the permanent existence of a Jewish state, is anathema to them.

When looking at a large set of facts, any analyst must try to find consistency. Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah's actions are utterly inconsistent with the desire to have a permanent peace with Israel and completely consistent with the PLO's plan to destroy it in stages. Positioning Abbas as the most reasonable alternative when his goal is identical as Hamas' does no one any favors.

If there was any real indication of good faith on the part of Abbas - if his schools would teach real peace, if his media would stop incitement, if Israeli Jews could trust him enough to believe that when they want to visit holy sites under his control that his own people won't try to kill them - then peace would be at hand. The reason that Israelis don't accept his words is because they see the divergence between what he says in English and how he acts with his people.

This is the message that Israeli leaders have been terrible at conveying, possibly because they don't want to insult Abbas when the West loves him so much. But at some point diplomatic niceties need to yield to cold facts, and the reason there is no peace is because everyone is ignoring the facts, and how they fit together.

Obama implies in this interview that Bibi is not interested in a peace plan. This is absurd. he is interested in a peace plan that ensures Israel's future. And for all his communication skills (Obama still talks about how Israel is continuously building settlements, for example) he has not been able to communicate this simple fact.

(h/t EBoZ)




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