The recent announcement by the Palestinian Authority that they will hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza, and the reaction from Hamas, illustrate clearly that Israel really has no one with whom to talk about peace.
Hamas stated categorically that there will be no elections in Gaza, ostensibly because such elections won’t represent Hamas supporters sufficiently. In reality, I suspect, Hamas is afraid that their popular support might not be as high as they claim it to be. They claim (not totally erroneously) that the Fatah government is illegitimate, since Abbas has held onto his position long after his term expired. Of course, Hamas is also no “angel” when it comes to the democratic process, having won power in Gaza in an election, then killing, torturing, and expelling most of the Fatah functionaries shortly thereafter.
This is a prime example of “Democracy in Action” among the Palestinians. They can’t even agree among themselves to hold elections or govern what they have now, yet they expect Israel to miraculously give in to their demands under the premise that any agreements reached with “The Palestinians” will be binding and honored.
And, Israel is somehow expected to negotiate with, well, who? Fatah? Hamas? Both? Egypt?
Nevertheless, in order to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it is pretty clear that there have to be negotiations.
To date, the Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah, refuse to sit down with Israel, each for their own reasons. Hamas refuses to sit down with Israel because they consider Israel to be a bunch of Jewish interlopers who have no business being in the Middle East (despite a couple of thousand years of history there) and Hamas is determined to drive them all into the sea. There is no chance of Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist, or of them sitting down with Israel. Israel concurs with this, rightfully considering Hamas to be a terrorist, illegitimate “government”, and refuses to sit with them, too.
Fatah refuses to sit down with Israel because they claim there is no point, since Israel won’t implement a “freeze” on construction, won’t agree to the “framework” Fatah wants, won’t agree in advance to the 1949 armistice lines (frequently referred to, incorrectly, as “The 1967 borders”), and generally, because they claim that Israel wants to continue creating “facts on the ground” (uvdot b’shetach in Hebrew).
The irony of Fatah’s position is that without negotiations, there can be no peace agreement. Without a peace agreement, there can be no viable Palestinian state in the West Bank (let’s leave Hamas and Gaza aside for a moment). Without a peace agreement, Israelis will continue to live in the West Bank settlements, since there is no real legal argument preventing them from doing so.
If Fatah and the Palestinians really want a state and really want the settlements gone, they will, eventually, have to prepare their people to accept a Jewish state on their “border”, and will have to actually sit down at the negotiating table to reach an agreement.
All the posturing, demands for “pre-conditions”, gallivanting around the globe searching for recognition, and demanding that the UN declare the settlements illegal won’t get them what they claim to want – their own state.
Of course, they could have had their state any number of times in the past, but turned down offers of 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, land swaps to make up for the other 3%, East Jerusalem as their capitol, etc.
I believe they turned it down because they have “educated” their people to believe that “The Jews” will acquiesce someday to a “right of return” for Arabs to move to Israel – clearly something the Jewish state cannot agree to, ever, and, they have “educated” them to believe that eventually, the Palestinians will throw “The Jews” out of ALL the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean.
Given that premise, it’s no wonder they’re afraid, especially in the wake of the recent Egyptian unrest, to tell their people that “This is it, folks. This is what we can get. Take it or leave it.” Until they do, there will be no peace.
Ironic, isn’t it? The world blames Israel for the lack of progress, yet there really is no one on the Palestinian side with the authority to negotiate or reach an agreement with Israel.
If the Palestinians REALLY want peace and a country of their own, there is a pretty short road to get there. It’s called “sitting down and talking”…..