In the Guardian, an important British paper, Saeb Erakat has published an essay making it absolutely clear that the Palestinians have no intention of giving up on their intention to have any and all descendants of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 return or have permission to return into present-day Israel. This is part of a new strategy by the Palestinians.
The new phase that has began was launched a week ago with the acceptance of a Palestinian state over 1949 Armistice Lines by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Also in the last few days, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian PM, has again vowed to have the infrastructure of a state ready by mid-2011. The Palestinian Authority recently authored and published an essay denying Jewish links to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The PA has announced their security forces will terminate cooperation with Israeli forces. The PA, through various speakers, has expressed its intention to go to the UN and try to have a new state accepted on 1949 Armistice Lines while bypassing UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. This last bit, in particular, is an outright abrogation of the Oslo Accords which require that both the Israelis and Palestinians must come to an agreement on the basis of these two resolutions.
The timing of these moves isn’t accidental. It takes place right after the US has given up on the premise of compelling Israel to end its settlement construction, having declared such construction improper in eastern Jerusalem as well. Even though Israel complied with US directives and took a 10 month hiatus from construction, the Palestinians chose to avoid entering negotiations. They did enter two weeks before the announced 10 months were up, only so they could “exit” negotiations in a huff when Israel restarted to build.
The US then tried to make Israel put construction on hold again for another three months, adding insult to the injury of treating an ally like merchants in a souk by promising things that would have been taken for granted by Israel from past American administrations.
Fortunately, the 3 month moratorium deal fell through, although I believe Israel made a tactical mistake and should have accepted it while rejecting all of the US offers-in-trade. Since the Israelis refused to freeze construction again, they will be made to pay a price and will be depicted as the party that stalled the peace process, although this is a blatant falsehood.
Now we enter a new phase as the Palestinians are showing. It is fair to say that an extremely unfriendly American administration is angry at Israel. They are not just angry at having had their intentions ruined, but the fact that the Israelis didn’t show much sympathy or concern regarding the devastating midterm elections and massive Democratic losses. It was clear the Israelis were pleased to see Republican counterweight in the House to a hostile administration.
In light of these changes, Israel would do well to act extremely cautiously regarding the PA. It is time to act on what has been obvious since the Taba talks, and the Palestinian War of 2000 – that the PA is nothing but a Trojan Horse.
Essentially, today the Palestinians have put Israel in a precarious position where they are deemed the legitimate party, righteously aggrieved and deserving of eastern Jerusalem. Israel is perceived as a violent interloper that exceeds its rights and violates international law. The sense is that it is even encroaching in its holiest site. This view is held by large swaths of the media (Shlomo Sand’s book, for example, won the French journalist association award for best book of the year and recently 60 Minutes had a report which could have come out of The Nation with respect to its views on Israel), of the population in Europe, certainly of the Arab and Africa blocs, and even of decision-makers such as many prominent EU leaders but perhaps even by Obama.
In light of this, Israel would do well to think about letting the PA get erased by Hamas. It is that the PA has – with the help of whitewashing not just of the Oslo process, but particularly by American and some Israeli leaders – become a government that is perceived as moderate and that knows how to play the game with the West. Having Hamas teach them the same lesson it did in Gaza would destroy the PA and remove the pressure they have placed on Israel. I say this as somebody who supports a two-state solution along the lines proposed by Barak and Olmert. Unfortunately, my proposal would set the prospect of peace back by decades, but we now know that the idea we could make peace with the Palestinians was nothing more than a dream. They only want peace if that peace does not involve a Jewish state. Since that is Hamas’s position as well, it may be better to have to confront them in the international arena than the smooth liars of the PA.
I’ve written a series of articles about this transformation which, as one can see in reading them, read and warn about the transforming landscape: