Sunday, July 12, 2009
Palestinians back away from peace deal
Are there still many among us who are surprised to hear that the Palestinian Authority is backing away from reaching any kind of peace deal with Israel? Word from Ramallah today that the PA would refuse to make any kind of deal with Israel that allowed the expansion of settlements in the West Bank is yet another indication of how far from seriousness the talks have strayed. Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio on Sunday that "there are no middle-ground solutions for the settlement issue" and that all settlement activity must stop, according to the Reuters international news service. Erekat said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. President Barack Obama the same thing in a letter yesterday, Reuters reported. But readers of this blog understand by now that the settlement issue actually is a non-issue designed to enrage the populace and delay any comprehensive peace between Israel and the PA. If the PA is planning to establish a free state that protects its citizens' rights, the only way settlement can be an obstacle to peace is if peace is not really being contemplated and the proposed two-state solution is not being seriously considered. Two countries at peace would allow the free movement of citizens between their borders -- it would not matter where the homes were located. If Israel wants to continue to build and expand settlements in territory promised to the Palestinians, it should go ahead -- but with the assumption that it is not guaranteed sovereignty over them in a final peace deal. Sovereignty is, after all, the only issue that can only be resolved with direct negotiations between the aggrieved parties. But reaching such a deal necessarily means that the Palestinian people give up their preposterous 'right of return' claims and the pretense of shared sovereignty over Jerusalem and its holy sites. It also means that the Palestinians must stop teaching their children to hate Jewish people. The Palestinian leadership is afraid to do this because it is afraid of angering radicals in its community who have shown no hesitation to resort to violence. But peace is a long-range proposition that can only be accomplished with a long-term commitment to pluralism. That will involve suppressing violent groups and changing the community dialogue from hatred to hopefulness, from demonization to democracy. Sadly, nobody who pays attention to the Middle East can image the PA being ready to commit to that.