Why is it so hard to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians?

Look at the final scorecard of the latest round of Middle East peace talks.

Israel allowed three groups of prisoners – a total of 78 – to go free in exchange for talks.

These prisoners were murderers. When they went to their homes their actions were celebrated.

Put aside why Israel didn’t release the final group of prisoners.

Put aside the spectacle of a society that honors killers and what that implies for peaceful coexistence.

Israel paid a price for negotiations that led nowhere.

This isn’t the first time either. In 2010, the administration pressured Israel to agree to a “settlement” freeze in order to coax Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate. Abbas dragged his heels and in the last few weeks of the freeze. When the Palestinians finally started to negotiate the freeze was set to expire. The United States tried to encourage Israel to extend the freeze but Israel refused and the Palestinians walked away from the negotiations at the end of the freeze.

Earlier too, Israel paid a price just to get the Palestinians to negotiate.

A commenter on an earlier post of mine made a great point:

If the Palestinians REALLY wanted a state and Israeli building infringed on it, they would be negotiating as much as possible.

Why do the Palestinians need incentives to negotiate with Israel?

One would assume that if the results of successful negotiations are a Palestinian state, and that is a result that the Palestinian leadership should want. But if we’re offering the Palestinian political leadership incentives to negotiate towards that it suggests that they don’t really want statehood.

This dynamic is reinforced by another attitude expressed by top administration officials. Whether it was President Barack Obama veiled threat he would no longer be able to defend Israel or Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting that Israel was turning into an apartheid state or Martin Indyk’s media war against Israel, the prevailing attitude in administration (and many in foreign policy circles) that it is only a moral imperative for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, but not the other way around.

So not only does Abbas seem uninterested in statehood, but there is no one pressing him to pursue it! I can only speculate why Abbas is uninterested in statehood, but his current position is enviable.

Abbas is perceived by the world as indispensable for peace. Even Israel prefers him to Hamas. He’s been able to use foreign aid to build a nice nest egg for his family. And with no progress on the peace front he gets to watch his enemy, Israel, get beaten up diplomatically. So why would he want his situation to change?

Unintentionally, the peace processors have done everything they can to discourage the PA from making peace with Israel. And it’s worked.

[Photo: Olivier Pacteau / Flickr ]