Monday, March 8, 2010
Indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority are pointless
Word from Ramallah yesterday that Palestinian leaders had agreed to take part in indirect peace talks with Israel is at once good news and bad. It's good news, of course, because the Palestinians and Israelis are going to have to be in constant and constructive contact with each other if there is any hope of the two societies living together in peace. But it's bad news, too, because the Palestinian Authority agreed only to hold indirect talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, with the United States acting as mediator, and that's a huge step in the wrong direction. Nothing can come from indirect talks that will be better than what the Israelis and Palestinians can achieve together, and whatever comes of them is likely to be a lot less useful for both. Sunday's agreement to hold indirect talks for four months was arranged after the Arab League endorsed the talks at a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. The PA had refused to resume negotiations until Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, which it wants for the capital of a future state. The new agreement comes one day before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in the region for the highest-level talks since the election of Biden and President Barack Obama. Israel accepted the indirect talks offer last week; the talks will be the first between the two sides in 14 months. But all the maneuverings and nuances cannot hide the real problem that keeps the PA from reaching a comprehensive peace deal. The Palestinian leadership doesn't want one, even though it promises tremendous benefits for the Palestinian people. Have Palestinian Authority-run schools stopped teaching children to hate Jews? Are Palestinian children still taught to mistrust their Israeli neighbors? It will take at least two generations to fix the years of hatred deliberately sowed by the PA, and Hamas-run schools in Gaza are undoubtedly worse. It will take generations to fix this, but the PA hasn't even started yet. This is the work that any real peace will require, and it's not getting done. Palestinian leaders prefer to dither over boundary lines and eschew any real compromises, because they know -- and the radical elements that dominate regional political discourse know, too -- that they are simply unwilling to accept Israel.