By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It’s generally assumed that Palestinian leaders have a vested interest in derailing the peace talks with Israel, because any agreement that would pragmatically accept a two-state solution would destroy their cherished myth about if not driving the Jews into the sea then at least wrecking their state. The increase of terrorism inside Israel and the rockets from Gaza and Lebanon in apparent response to the current efforts by US Secretary John Kerry to bring about an agreement offer clues.
If the President of the Palestinian Authority is dragging his feet, it may not be because he shares the myth but because he knows that any agreement he makes with the Israelis may cost him his head. That’s the view of Ali Salim, a frequent, obviously Arab, contributor to the Gatestone Institute that describes him as “a scholar based in the Middle East.” In view of the partisan nature of Gatestone, its findings must always be viewed with suspicion, but not necessarily ignored.
Salim wrote on December 19: “PLO President Mahmoud Abbas undoubtedly knows that the minute he signs a peace deal with Israel, the Palestinian terrorist organizations will assassinate him. The mismanagement by Europe, the UN and Abbas’s own weakness have prepared the ground for a takeover by radical elements, and it will occur in the foreseeable future. If elections were held today in the West Bank, Hamas and other Salafist-Jihadi organizations would win,”
Many Israelis, if not the majority of the general population then probably most of the members of the cabinet, also seem determined to prevent a peace agreement. Ceding land to the Palestinians would wreck their myth about a Jewish state in all of the Land of Israel. Thus, for example, Israel’s Minister of Defense, a hawk with obvious solid inside information, made it clear the other day that those who think that a peace agreement is about to be reached are deluding themselves.
The government’s persistent “in your face” granting more building permits for the settlements provides further evidence. And now the members of the Prime Minister’s Likud Party are said to want to introduce a law in the Knesset that would annex the Jordan Valley. If nothing else, that would most certainly kill peace.
As much as we may deplore these measures, it appears that the Prime Minister of Israel, speaking for his government, and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, speaking for his, may be colluding by on the one hand, making nice to Kerry while, on the other, issuing a mixture of vaguely conciliatory and openly aggressive statements to and about each other. There’re persistent speculations that the two have clandestine one-to-one encounters outside the formal negotiation framework.
Though I may sound reactionary – and I’ve been accused of it lately by one or two readers of my reflections – I find it impossible not to speculate that both sides have come to the cynical realization that the status quo is the best guarantee for the leader of each to stay in power: Netanyahu by appearing to be the strong man of Israel who isn’t going to give away the family silver; Abbas as the Palestinian leader who will not allow himself and his people to be browbeaten neither by Israel nor by the United States.
Kerry is due here later this week to present his plan. I hope that it’ll be accepted by all and that my skepticism will have been totally unwarranted.