Setting the Record Straight on Israel-Palestinian Negotiations

From 1937 onward, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected offers, brought to them by the British, the U.S., and Israel itself, to share the territory west of the Jordan River. Yet claims routinely surface suggesting that responsibility for the failures to reach a compromise lies elsewhere. Ben-Dror Yemini examines the evidence, and puts paid to such attempts at distortion:

For decades, many people, for good and bad, have been spreading the narrative that if only Israel would be a little more generous, and if only the Americans brokered a serious peace agreement, peace was within reach. For the bad, this stems from the desire to blame Israel for all world crimes. For the good, this is due to a sincere and genuine desire for peace, mixed with a lack of knowledge, or reluctance to know, or self-deception of those who struggle to reconcile the gap between beliefs and desires on the one hand and facts on the other.

There are . . . official announcements, materials exposed [by Al Jazeera’s publication of thousands of leaked documents in 2011], and always denials trying, unsuccessfully, to create the impression that the Palestinians wanted peace. In 2012, I was invited to attend a meeting with [the former Palestinian chief negotiator] Nabil Shaath. A welcome initiative. It was a wonderful meeting—up to that moment when I presented to Shaath what he himself said on July 3, 2011: “We will never accept the ‘two states for two peoples’ formula to resolve the conflict.” I asked him if he had changed his mind. He was evasive. I was no longer invited to the next meeting. . . .

Why should anyone bother the enthusiasts of illusion? As long as the Israeli and global left wing insist on ignoring facts, they are not promoting peace. Doing so serves Palestinian rejectionism. It’s bad for the Palestinians and it’s bad for Israel.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood