Why ‘Palestine Papers’ are the death of the peace process
By BARRY RUBIN
Jerusalem Post, 31/01/2011
What Palestinian leader would now dare make the smallest concession? What Israeli leader would take new risks?
While the ‘Palestine Papers’ are taken as truth to condemn Israel as a hard-hearted warmonger uninterested in peace, the whole affair can be summed up like this: The world is judging and condemning Israel on the basis of incomplete notes taken by Palestinian Authority junior staffers, many of whom are not fluent English-speakers (writing down statements made by people who are not native English speakers ) and who are passionate partisans of the Palestinian cause.
The documents have not been authenticated by anyone; they leave out the concessions made by Israel in the talks, and are filtered through the pro-Hamas, anti- Israel, anti-Palestinian Authority Al-Jazeera (whose record of reportage is marked by some amazing distortions and omissions) and the anti-Israel, Hamas-sympathetic, anti-PA Guardian.
They then misinterpret them in ways that seem deliberately intended to make Israel and the PA look bad, and they are quoted by journalists around the world who know little or nothing about the issues, haven’t read the documents, have never seriously considered the possibility that they aren’t 100 percent accurate, and ignore every other previous negotiation and public statement by Israel and the PA that contradict the claims being made, and who then add on even more claims that are neither in the documents nor in Al-Jazeera and The Guardian.
WHAT HISTORICAL information has been left out in this lynchmob atmosphere? To begin with, there have been Israel’s persistent offers of peace beginning with its 1948 Declaration of Independence and stretching over many years and through many initiatives.
There was the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979, and the agreement offering Palestinians self-determination through elections.
There were the withdrawals from Sinai, southern Lebanon, large parts of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip.
There was also the 1993 agreement with the PLO, in which Israel froze the creation of any new settlements, allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians to come in, permitted the establishment of armed PA security groups (many of which turned their guns against it), supported the PA receiving aid and payments to it and made increasingly forthcoming offers of peace deals. This culminated in the 2000 Camp David meeting in which Yasser Arafat refused to negotiate on the basis of a two-state solution, down to prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer that included even more concessions. As a result of these risks taken for peace, several thousand Israelis died at the hands of terrorists.
Also left out is the Israeli political context. At the time of the meetings in question, Olmert and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni were desperate. Their government was gradually collapsing, and they knew that only dramatic progress toward peace would save them. Never in the country’s history has a government been so strongly motivated to reach a deal, even at the cost of the most far-reaching concessions.
Why, then, would it just walk away after allegedly receiving such as generous Palestinian offer? Moreover, does it seem likely that Livni is, as presented in this coverage, a foe of international law and in favor of expelling Palestinian villagers from their homes? NOT A single statement – not only in public but in any private meeting that has ever surfaced – of PA leaders matches the positions they supposedly took in the meetings. It is hard for outsiders to imagine how passionately they hold to the demand for a “right of return” for all Palestinians who ever lived, or are descended from those who lived, on the pre-1948 territory of Israel.
Abbas has long been known to be personally dedicated to this point.
To claim that PA leaders dropped this demand without getting anything in return is to disregard the facts.
According to Olmert, what happened was that Abbas never endorsed the proposed deal or even responded to him after these discussions. In other words, it wasn’t Israel that rejected a deal but the PA. And, despite the spin put on it by the media, there is no evidence in the documents to the contrary.
Even the PA offer alleged in the documents only dealt with two of Israel’s concerns – the borders of east Jerusalem and the refugee issue – and not with ending the conflict, security guarantees or its recognition as a Jewish state (in exchange for recognizing Palestine as an Arab state).
EVENTS TODAY are starting to parallel the discourse of medieval anti-Jewish blood libels. Why? Because the fantastic nature of the unproven claims and the acceptance of some of the most fanatical haters of this people as sources has been no barrier to accusing Israelis of war crimes, of murdering children and of rejecting peace.
Indeed, this new version is worse than the blood libel, since in the traditional case the murders were done to fulfill an alleged religious obligation, while now they are supposedly committed just for fun or out of pure malice.
The old story being repeated is an eagerness to believe that the Jews are evil and criminal, even when logic and evidence show the accusations to be baseless.
That is anti-Semitism, whether it is expressed in terms of religion, race or – as it is today – national existence. And it is equally true whether expressed in the language of theological fanaticism, racist ravings or alleged concern for human rights while giving aid to the worst totalitarian forces.
FINALLY, I must say some kind words about the PA leaders and negotiators. I have often criticized them and pointed out that they will not and cannot (given their political context) make comprehensive peace with Israel. The Palestine Papers, even if true, prove that assertion. Either they were ready to make big concessions but could not deliver, since there would be a revolt once these became public, or they are innocent victims of pro-Hamas attacks.
Either way, they could never have delivered on such commitments.
Knowing this, they never would have made such offers; no one was more aware of that reality than they.
This group – Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Saeb Erakat and a few others – are moderates in the Palestinian context. Most of them may not be men of peace, but neither are they men of war.
They understand that decades more spent in struggle and bloodshed will not benefit their people.
They know what Arafat did to hurt the Palestinians and ensure that they did not get a state. They doubt their movement’s ability to wipe Israel off the map. They do not want a radical Islamist state, or thousands more people to die unnecessarily.
What we are seeing here, then, has been the bane of Arab politics since the 1930s: the triumph of radicals over moderates. The radical Arab nationalists wiped out the old moderate politicians and parliamentary regimes. The fate of moderates has repeatedly been assassination: the Palestinians Fakhri Nashashibi and Issam Sartawi, King Abdullah of Jordan, the Lebanese Riyad al-Sulh and Rafik Hariri, Egyptian Anwar Sadat and so many others.
Now, in an orgy of madness, the West has secured a revolutionary Islamist state in the Gaza Strip, stood by passively while Hizbullah seized control of Lebanon, and even cheered as concealed Islamists rule Turkey and chip away at freedom there. And these are the people who dare lecture Israel on the strategy it should follow? Equally, Western officials, intellectuals and journalists fail to realize that the Palestine Papers are the death knell for any peace process. What Palestinian leader would dare make the smallest concession now, or for many years to come? What Israeli leader will make big concessions or take risks, knowing how past ones only increased slanders, terrorism and the confidence of those who seek to commit genocide against this country? By empowering the extremists, showing hostility and unreliability to Israel and now helping to undercut the Palestinian moderates, Western democracies have made happen precisely the opposite of what they intended. Worst of all, they still don’t understand what damage they have brought on us all.
One can only hope they awaken before the entire Middle East is put into a nightmarish sleep.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.