A couple of years ago, Robert Malley, who had worked under Dennis Ross, along with Hussein Agha, wrote a very important article for the NY Review of Books. In that article, they provided the first serious alternative view of the outcome of Camp David II. While it was common wisdom that Arafat had torpedoed the summit, while Clinton and Barak had pushed for peace, Malley and Agha said that it was not so and there were numerous other reasons for the failure of the talks. They placed a majority of the blame upon Barak and Israel, of course, and over time, thanks to the very impressive propaganda machine the Palestinians and their allies on the Left have put together, many view Malley and Agha’s analysis as the accurate one, even if the Israelis who were there (Ben Ami, for example) refute it.
By the way, it’s not as if some Israelis didn’t attempt to refute their case. Benny Morris tried, in conversation with Ehud Barak. Sadly, Morris didn’t do such a great job and Malley/Agha responded very effectively. Barak put his foot in his mouth so badly in the next round by claiming that Arabs are liars, that he undermined everything else he had said and gave Malley/Agha ammunition to jump on him.
Malley and Agha, whose careers as prominent analysts of the Mid-East were made with those articles, are at it again now with another article in that revered publication, the NY Review of Books. This time, they are covering Mahmoud Abbas and his goals and challenges in light of his personal and political history. Haaretz is carrying a short version of this whitewashing of a man who has denied the Holocaust and has been at least as aggressive about the demands of the Palestinians from Israel as Arafat. Still, it’s an interesting and informative article and an interesting read.
Their point is that Abbas will try to achieve the very same goals as he always has: “right of return,” East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital and Palestinian state on more or less 1967 borders. The difference between him and Arafat is that he will try to pressure Israel, via the Europeans and Americans, by instituting an end to Palestinian violence and an active diplomatic front.
On that note, the Jerusalem Post reports that Abbas has instructed the head of one of his military forces to put an end to the Qassam rocket attacks.
I guess my feeling is that if Malley and Agha are right and somehow Abbas will navigate the treacherous waters of Palestinian politics with Hamas as an angry self-righteous watchdog, then he may bring quiet to the scene for the first time in many years. However, his demands are non-starters for most Israelis and will prove to be a great obstacle. The challenge for Israel will be to say “no” while the whole world points out that Israel is dealing with a “reasonable” person who has removed terror from the equation.
By the way, while we’re providing links with lengthy articles, Malley and Agha have a very interesting peace proposal which they published in Foreign Affairs a while back.