The Palestinians are very confident these days and with good reasons.

First, let’s take a look at Israel:
-The BDS movement has picked up some key endorsements and supporters;
-Israel is in the international diplomatic doghouse;
-When others aren’t criticizing the Jewish state, Israel finds ways like the attack on the flotilla to generate severe international approbation;
-Within Israel itself the divisions between secular and Orthodox Israelis as well as between the Leftists and the Rightists have never been more pronounced and hostile;
-Israeli Arabs have taken to siding openly with Israel’s adversaries and enemies;
-A number of pro-Palestinian Israeli NGOs as well as the Leftist newspaper, Ha’aretz, have gained significant international voices and influence;
-Israel’s right wing government is distrusted by default by many people including many diplomats and politicians from the West;
-While the settlements are growing, they have become a significant burden to Israel’s international image;
-and, Israel’s relationship with the US has never witnessed the challenges faced with Obama’s administration which has succeeded in making us all miss James Baker.

Let’s next take a look at the Palestinians:
-They have an ideal situation with the separation of the PA from Gaza. Suddenly, Fatah (and the PA) look like moderates in relation to Hamas and nobody, not the Israelis, not the Americans and certainly not the Europeans, is willing to let the PA falter. This means more revenue from donor countries, more diplomatic tuches-kissing of PA leaders, the development with foreign resources and training of a serious Palestinian military force and restraint from criticism that Israeli leaders can only dream about.
-Next, the Palestinian West Bank is thriving economically. It is growing by leaps and bounds with the Israelis attempting to offer as much support as they can within the confines of their security needs.
-Also, the new prosperity is helping the Palestinians grow their towns, villages and Jerusalem neighborhoods with very little oversight by Israel and almost complete freedom of movement to do so. Yes, some houses are being demolished, but on a broad scale, Palestinians are building out and creating “facts on the ground” to a significant degree.
-The so-called non-violent circuses in some key Palestinian villages have proven to be a goldmine as far as Palestinian international media coverage because they are now identified with non-violence while Israel has become identified as violent, racist and unfairly brutal.
-Even Gaza enjoys favorable press these days. Israel now appears to be a violent ogre intent on brutalizing Gazans with war and depriving them of basic needs in times of no fighting. Ironically, there is at the same time an abundant supply of everything from food to toys in Gaza, as well as serious international financial support including a recent pledge of hundreds of millions by the USA itself.
-Finally, while Hamas may be left out in the cold, Abbas has a favorable working relationship with Obama which is not manufactured for the media like Netanyahu’s, while Salam Fayyad is seen as something along the lines of a Palestinian Ben Gurion.

So what are the Palestinians doing with all this good news?

Nothing. Nada.

The Palestinians are continuing to play their waiting game. The latest is that Abbas has informed the US that he refuses to engage in negotiations directly with Israel unless there is an agreement before the negotiations even begin that the borders are defined as 1967 borders. To those who don’t understand the code, this means that Israel must give up the Holy Basin. It also means a run-around international law since UNSCR 242, which can be said to be the defining law surrounding the question of how a peace agreement should look, does not require that Israel return to 1967 borders. Abbas also wants an international force to be agreed to in advance of talks and not only on the Israel border, but also on the Jordan Valley side.

Now, it’s not as if these issues haven’t been discussed with Israel before. In fact, in early 2001 at Taba, Ehud Barak offered to allow foreign troops to control the Jordan Valley instead of Israeli troops. The sequence would take place after 5 years from the signing of the agreement. Barak and Olmert both offered the Palestinians all of Gaza and 95-97% of the West Bank, which is pretty darn close to “1967 borders.”

So what is Abbas doing here? A couple of things. First of all, he is throwing the ball into Netanyahu’s court. When Netanyahu says, correctly, that he has been asking for negotiations for over a year only to be rebuffed, now the Palestinians can say that they have offered to enter negotiations as well. When Israel says that they have offered an outline for peace that has been rejected, now the Palestinians can say they have as well. It doesn’t matter that the Israeli offers have been genuine and have even sought to share East Jerusalem while the Palestinian offers have not and most certainly have not been genuine since they maintain that they will not consider Israel a Jewish state or forego the movement of Palestinians (so-called “refugees) into Israel in the future. The point is the Palestinians can say they made a proposal.

But the most important thing Abbas is doing is postponing. He is playing for time with the confidence of a man who knows that waiting costs his side nothing while providing numerous advantages. The other players actually have electorates to answer to and are feeling enormous pressure to produce achievements of some sort. He can wait. Things are going well for the Palestinians relative to the past and with every new election, new leaders and responsibilities weigh down his adversaries while he remains secure in his position along with all of his PLO and Fatah cronies. His safety is even secured by Israel because they don’t want another Hamas-led province on their border.

What should Israel do?

Israel should accept Abbas’s proposal on the following model: Israel will enter into direct negotiations regarding 1967 borders solely on the basis of UNSCR 242, since that is the international law governing the question of final borders, and only if in advance to negotiations, the Palestinians officially recognize Israel as a Jewish state. After all, if the Palestinians won’t accept the premise of the Jewish state, what purpose is there to the 242 clause demanding that Israel’s neighbors live in peace with it. Second, in order to accept having a foreign military buffer between the state of Israel and the new Palestine, the trade off should be Palestinian consent to remain a demilitarized nation with heavily restricted airspace and borders. Otherwise, based on the experience of the buildup of arms in areas controlled by Hizbullah with a foreign military presence there to prevent such a buildup, Israel has no guarantees that the Palestinians won’t build an army to attack Israel. Finally, Israel should demand the Palestinians concede that the Temple Mount should come under Israeli sovereignty together with the Jewish Quarter in the Old City.

These, of course, are merely demands the Palestinians have to accept before direct negotiations begin.

Of course Abbas will reject these suggestions, but the ball will at least be back in his court.

Sadly for those of us who dream of peace, the reality is that the Palestinians don’t want it unless they are able to include Israel as their country.

Here are previous essays about this topic:

The Palestinians Think They are in the Endgame

The Palestinian Endgame Enters High Gear

More About the Palestinian Endgame

The Palestinians Believe They Have Israel in a Corner

Details of Barak’s Taba Plan

Ehud Olmert’s Insanely Generous Peace Offer/Palestinians Predict They Won’t Talk to Israelis with Obama in Office/a> with More Details by Olmert Himself.

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  • the bds movement is now 10 years old and except for a few over the hill rockers refusing to play israel, is an epic failure…or would you care to deny that israel was one of the few countries not hit hard by the economic collapse (mostly due to the fact that 50 percent of gdp is from exports)

    the divide between secular and observant has always been wide…

    what leftists? you mean the few peace now people who are left in country?

    kahane was right about the israeli arabs….they all shouldve been packed up on buses in 68….but since they werent, what should happen now is more prosecutions for sedition

    you really think that bibi is a right winger? thats like saying obama is a commie

    uh…and read 242 again…it is not enough that the arabs residing in the west bank and gaza recognize israel’s right to exist…it is all nations in the mideast

    242 was supposedly written for the benefit of israel…so that what happened in 48 and 56 wouldnt happen again

    but when the un realized their error…they went and wrote a bunch more resolutions…including those that call all neighborhoods in the west bank and east jerusalem “illegal”

  • Bursting some more of middle’s bubbles:

    – Can you cite some proof that a real decision maker outside the chattering classes “distrusts Israel’s right-wing government”?

    The fact is that Nobama’s epic failure to project US power has opened many doors – and ears – to Bibi and Lieberman. Many countries want to hear this government’s opinions on global Islamic terror now that they can’t rely on America to be international “sheriff”.

    But don’t let reality interfere with your own liberal BDS – Bibi Derangement Syndrome…

    – On foreign policy, Israelis have never been more united than ever in recent (post-67) history. The vast majority of Israelis have figured out that there’s nobody to talk to, and support the current administration’s efforts to move beyond the Oslo paradigm (whatever Muddled liberal American Jews may think of Bibi). Which leads to:

    – The combined traumas of the Gaza expulsion and the collapse of the Piece Process have generated more consensus than ever before in SUPPORT of the settlements – again, despite the catechism recited by bien-pensant American liberals.

    (It’s amazing – Middle himself writes that the Palis don’t want peace, it was all a charade – yet cannot bring himself to surrender his hatred of the settlers… I think the phrase is “bitter clingers”…)

    – Bibi has masterfully rope-a-doped the Nobama administration, which is now paralyzed by upcoming elections. He got Hillary to back off, got the Americans to say the right things regarding Gaza, and has successfully sidestepped attempts to coerce us into negotiations – without drawing criticism that we are “intransigent”.

    – The flotilla was a fiasco internally, that worked FOR Israel externally…. most foreigners got the message that Israel was prepared for peaceful policing, and was violently attacked. A very good image of the IDF from a PR perspective.

    – The flotilla and its media aftermath showed 2 important things:

    1) Just how vulnerable the PC side is to ridicule, and
    2) Just how apathetic many people have become. The Pali waiting game – and the leaking truth that they are not doing so poorly – has left most non-Semites deeply apathetic. The Palis have had their 15 minutes of fame.

    Especially as most Europeans turn to domestic economic woes, the Palis – with their hands stuck out for aid – will continue to lose the interest/sympathy of non-Muslims.

    Israel is in a far better position than the Palis to weather any waiting game.

  • I saw Noam’s article and wasn’t surprised by it. When you put together the extreme Left and the extreme Right, they often have much to agree about. 😉

    Abbas has said that he would start talks where they left off with Olmert, but that wasn’t his condition for restarting talks. First he refused talks entirely. He didn’t give a reason, but in the links above I have the Washington Post coverage because a senior aide of his informed the reporter that the Palestinians were planning to wait and the waiting should cause friction with Obama and bring down Bibi’s government.

    Then, when the waiting ploy finally pissed off the Americans enough, Abbas created a new condition – that all so-called “settlement” activity be stopped, including in Jerusalem. That played out well for a while but has run out of steam recently because of Obama and the Dems feeling worried about the November elections and going back on their aggressive approach on Jerusalem.

    So now he is starting with this new 1967 borders demand.

    When that fails in a month or so, he’ll declare that to enter direct talks, Bibi has to sign the Fatah charter. It’s all a game intended to buy time, let the good things happening to the Palestinians under current conditions continue and the bad things happening to Israel continue.

    The current situation is apparently the worst situation possible as far as Israel is concerned and definitely as far as people like me who seek a two state solution are concerned. It appears that the theory that things have to be good for the Palestinians in order to get anywhere is completely wrong. The better their situation, the less motivated they appear to be to even pretend they seek a compromise.

  • Oh, and with respect to the question of whether it’s reasonable to start off talks where they left off with Olmert, I do think that’s a non-starter. Abbas ended the talks with Olmert when it was convenient for him, not because Olmert was out of office. Now he wants to restart where they left off. Why? He could have negotiated and tried to close a deal with Olmert. It’s very convenient for the Palestinians to keep walking away from talks when the final offers are placed on the table, but such behavior should be penalized, not rewarded. It only kills the opportunity for peace.

  • Middle, that comment re Olmert flies in the face of your repeated contentions that an Israeli offer to end the conflict has been on the table for nearly a decade. Now, you want to play Lucy with the football.

    The best news here is that Fayyad is building a Palestinian state on the West Bank with a sound, growing economy and a US-trained, nascent security force. Even the Likud-led government seems to think this a good thing, since it is facillitating his economic policies and easing WB security restrictions. In the past, Middle has written that Palestinian delay has cost lives. Yet the security situation on the WB is now the best it’s been in perhaps decades.

    Why require Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? What does this mean? If Abbas says, ‘we recognize Israel as a state and understand a bunch of Jews live there,’ is this enough? What does the ‘Jewish state’ formulation mean–even for Israelis–and how does intoning the words enhance Israel’s security in any way?

    Abbas should recognize Israel’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. This should be enough. To burden talks with (even more) preconditions hardly advances peace. Middle here unthinkingly rehashs a meme of the Israeli right.

    Abbas has his shortcomings, but he is proving a savvy negotiator in playing the long game with Obama. He can continue to develop his state to the point of credibly threatening to declare independence, while waiting for the midterm elections to come and go and Obama to avenge himself upon Jerusalem.

    It’s hard to adjust to Ben-David’s Panglossian turn, but we’ll see how he feels when Obama devotes his full attention to the Middle East during his second term.

  • I’m not sure what you mean by your first paragraph, Tom. I have never said that an Israeli offer has been on the table for 10 years. I have said that there have been 3 substantive offers, two of them official, in the past ten years. Those would be at Camp David (official), at Taba (unofficial) with Barak, and by Olmert in 2008 (some claim it wasn’t official, but Olmert rejects this view). Sharon and Netanyahu, the other two Israeli PMs in the past ten years, have not agreed to either Barak or Olmert’s formulas for peace. However, it does appear that Olmert based his offer largely on Barak’s at Taba.

    The Palestinian delay most certainly costs lives, as Gaza’s Cast Lead proves. The costs are concentrated in bursts of activity instead of regularly. The preparations by Hizbullah and Syria for a missile war will also cost many lives if they come to fruition.

    As for the rest of it, maybe my writing was unclear. There is no purpose to making demands of Abbas that he isn’t going to accept other than throwing the ball back in his court as he has now done to Bibi. The delay is not in Israel’s interest and all delays are in the Palestinians’ interest. At least when the ball is in their court, the Palestinians have to sweat a little and maybe one day will be compelled to come to the table again.

  • And I don’t worry about the Palestinians declaring a state because it gains them few benefits and forces responsibilities upon them that they would prefer to leave in others’ hands (does UNWRA have to disappear, for example?).

    However, let’s say that they declare statehood. It is a certainty that the language they use in their statehood declaration will indicate that they don’t believe the ’67 borders to be final. Even for the international community that will be too much to take, especially since it won’t abide by 242.

    The threat of declaring statehood is just that.

  • I think you’re right that delay is in the Palestinians’ interest, but it’s striking that both sides seem to think they benefit by delay, when one of them will likely prove to be the loser.

    I read your post to say that Abbas has to accept certain preconditions before direct talks begin. That just means further delay. The best way to put the onus on Abbas is not via preconditions but by creating a negotiating environment ostensibly favorable to him, then judging what he does with it.

    • But you see, the negotiating environment right now is heavily tilted in his favor and instead of jumping on negotiations, he is putting up barriers intended to delay and evade negotiations. It’s absolutely clear that borders will have to be negotiated, so his demand that Israel give up its leverage entirely by giving away the borders (to 1949, yet!) is meant to kill talks.

      As I wrote, it seems to me that favorable conditions undermine any reasons the Palestinians have to come to the table.

      I also think the Israelis are not delaying, but are trying to get to talks. It’s just that they’re not stupid and aren’t going to give up any leverage before talks.

      Everybody knows that a final deal is going to look a lot like what was offered by Israel at Taba and Olmert’s twist of internationalizing the Holy Basin will probably also become part of any agreement. I don’t think Netanyahu is ready to go that far, but if negotiations begin, he will find himself there very quickly. The problem isn’t Israel, it’s that the Palestinians will need to let the so-called “return” be predominantly to the new Palestine and the Temple Mount will have to be shared. Those are the key sticking points.

  • Though Obama can use his leverage with Abbas to force him into direct/indirect negotiations. Abbas has an Arabist friend in the White House, and if Obama’s coolness toward Israel yields any advantage, it gives Obama more sway with the Palestinians.

    I’m quite struck by Ben-David’s comment, because he ignores the issue of what to do with land and people that Israel doesn’t want. I don’t get why Israel doesn’t think it to its advantage to give the Palestinians a rump state, the sooner the better, coupled with security guarantees to neuter any military threat such an intrinsically weak state might pose. Why not tell Abbas and Fayyad, ‘here– take it’?

  • Don’t be so struck with Ben David. He represents a section of Israel’s believers, many of them settlers, but also some on the Right, that cannot see that this ship has sailed and it’s virtually impossible for Israel to keep Judea and Samaria without turning into Lebanon in the short term and a Muslim country in the long term. I think, although it is unspoken, that many believe that if they wait long enough, some magical solution like a very hard war will enable Israel to maintain Judea and Samaria. Those who are believers, that is, Jewish believers, believe that God will provide the solution and they just have to hang tight until then. Fortunately, these people represent, in my estimation, no more than 10% of the population and most of them are good, law-abiding, people who will yell and scream, but ultimately comply with whatever the state of Israel decides.

  • Oooh, just can’t resist this juicy opportunity to Muddle:

    Don’t be so struck with Ben David. He represents a section of Israel’s believers, many of them settlers, but also some on the Right, that cannot see that this ship has sailed and it’s virtually impossible for Israel to keep Judea and Samaria without turning into Lebanon in the short term and a Muslim country in the long term.

    I represent the “section” of Israel that won the last few elections – voting for Sharon and other “hard-right” security figures as the disaster of Oslo became more apparent.

    It’s most telling that Middle’s prognosticating ignores the other side of the question: What will happen if Judea and Samaria ARE partitioned?

    Mr. Abbas is a lovely man – but The Rest Of Us understand that Fatah is being propped up by the West, and we are just 2 neckties away from towelheads on the West Bank: it’s Abbas, Dahlan, and then the Hamas deluge.

    (Which is why Europe and the US are desperately trying to create a de-facto Fatah state on the West Bank, and keep West Bank residents happy.)

    The Rest of Us now understand that there never was any Pali intention to make peace or accept partition – in order to stay in power, “moderate” Fatah folk like Abbas have to repeat “moderate” Arafat’s line that any land given will be used to mount further attacks on The Zionist Entity.

    Which is what has actually happened.
    Oslo did not bring peace – have you noticed?
    We who live here have…

    So although liberal Jews like Muddle cling for their own ideological reasons to the mirage that there’s a “moderate” Pali leader – or population! – out there, we who have lived through Oslo see more clearly what really is, and what will be if any 2-state solution goes through:

    The same missiles that now strike the Negev from Gaza and the Golan from Lebanon will now hit Tel-Aviv from Nablus.

    The Muddled liberal Jews of the world cannot accept this – which is why they repeatedly try to claim these opinions are marginal, held only by “radical believers” when in fact they are mainstream and win elections here.

    Bibi and Lieberman are doing just the job they were elected to do – choke the Piece Process, and start weaning the world off the paradigm of Israeli concessions.

    The preconditions for negotiation serve those aims – for example, the demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland has the aim of exposing the Pali’s continued revanchism.

    Two states West of the Jordan is a political non-starter in Israel. Not even Barak is talking about it. Kadima is predicted to be a one-election wonder since Oslo-style Piecemaking is its key differentiator.

    So “don’t be so struck” when Middle says:

    Fortunately, these people represent, in my estimation, no more than 10% of the population

    Uh-huh. Sure.

  • Ben David, you are commenting in a post where I specifically point out, again, that there is no partner on the other side.

    You are wrong if you believe that hardcore supporters of the settlements are anything more than a minority. Take a look at the percentages of Israelis who continue to support a two state solution. Where exactly do you think these Israelis expect the Palestinian state to be? Jordan?

    And you still haven’t addressed the really hard question.

    What are you going to do with the Palestinians? Annex the territory and make them citizens? Annex but prohibit their citizenship? Kick them out? Maintain the present status of Israeli troops in control over most of the WB indefinitely despite the heavy costs to Israel’s legitimacy and reputation?

    And don’t be coy. What is supposed to happen in the West Bank?

  • 1) Middle – if there is nobody to talk to, why should we agree to proposals you admit don’t serve our interests, and just leave us worse off?

    2) We know that the demographic threat was grossly overstated – and now that they are living under Pali thugocracy rather than that awful “occupation”, between 35,000 and 50,000 Palis leave the West Bank each year.

    Most of them are young people in their 20s and 30s – further weakening the long-term demographic threat.

    Like I said – we are better set than the Palis to weather a waiting game.

    Those emigration numbers would go even higher were it not for political pressure to limit the number of 1st World visas – the modern day version of the “let them rot in refugee camps for political purposes”.

    You can go on any day to the Canadian and Australian attaches in Ramallah and see the lines.

    Simultaneously, the Israeli housing market in the central area is going through the roof due to demand – and prices driven up by French Jews buying apartments “just in case”.

    You do the math.

    • 1. Because the best solution remains a 2 state solution.

      2. Even if you go by the numbers of the lower estimates, there are still 2.2 million Palestinians and around half of them are in the WB. What are you going to do with them, leave them under military rule indefinitely? And do you not see the price Israel keeps paying internationally AND internally because of this?

  • Muddled thinking:
    If there is nobody to talk to, why should we agree to proposals you admit don’t serve our interests, and just leave us worse off?
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    Because the best solution remains a 2 state solution.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    … talk about “true believers”…..

  • Ben-david is your solution to the palestinians the “final solution”? History repeats you know. Settlers are colonists, why muddle words. like american colonists they saw themselves thru a prism and cloak of religion to justify their acts. Just like the kkk. terrorists are the few who make a lot of noise and trouble, and find a way to attract our attention, but they are the few. it appears that these elements will lead isreal right to south africa. And don’t get me wrong, there are these elements in all countries. but in my opinion isrieal takes the cake.