One the best commentaries I’ve seen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was published last week in Haaretz. The article by Israeli author, Gadi Taub asked, Does Abbas Really Want Israel to Withdraw From the West Bank?
Unsurprisingly the answer Taub suggests is “no.”
Taub’s column can be reduced to 5 main points as to why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not want peace with Israel.
- After spending years agitating for the “right of return” there is no way he would abandon it and lose whatever little credibility he still has with the Palestinians in order to make peace.
- He might complain about the human rights abuses of Israel, but the Palestinian security services will be worse.
- Right now Abbas doesn’t have to fight Hamas directly, Israel is doing most of the work. As an added bonus Israel’s presence in the West Bank allows him to complain about occupation. If he gets a state by compromise he will lose the Israeli protection and he will look like he gave in to Israel.
- Abbas probably realizes that with no real institution building it isn’t obvious that a Palestinian state would be at all stable. This point is probably reinforced by the collapse of Arab nation-states across the Middle East.
- Finally a peace agreement would allow Israel to escape much of the criticism it is currently subject to.
So Taub asked, “Given all this, why should Abbas exchange victimhood for an uncertain future that is liable to have an even higher toll of victims?”
While I don’t agree with all of Taub’s premises, I think his analysis to this point is pretty accurate.
I can’t say I agree with his suggested solution. After asking, “Could it be that all this has occurred to [Abbas]?” Taub answers himself, “If so, perhaps we should start thinking of how to try and end the occupation without his help.”
I wish that Israel could end the occupation by itself too. (Actually I believe it already has.) Perhaps I should say, I wish Israel could end the unjust criticism it receives for the occupation of the Palestinians by itself. But it can’t.
Taub’s suggestion that Israel can in any way end the conflict with the Palestinians unilaterally is not possible. Consider what he wrote about the right of return, “after immortalizing the refugee problem for three generations with the help of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, yielding on the right of return will without a doubt be regarded as capitulation and moral bankruptcy.”
There are many people, (including the UN and most the world’s diplomatic corps) who are invested in ensuring the continued rule of the Palestinian Authority over the Palestinians regardless of the results.
The problem is that, as Taub acknowledged, after twenty-two years, the Palestinians do not have effective institutions of governance. The Palestinian Authority keeps going because of infusions of foreign aid, billions of which has been squandered by corruption.
It’s well and good to call for a two-state solution, but what if one of those states refuses to create itself? Statehood doesn’t just happen, a state needs to be built, and the Palestinian so far have not done so. Statehood also requires accountability, which is hard to see when Abbas has just begun the twelfth year of the four year term as president he was elected to in 2005.
Until there’s an understanding that the reason that there is no lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will continue to be faulted.
Taub’s op-ed appeared about a month after Isaac Herzog, leader of Israel’s left-of-center Zionist Union party, said that he doesn’t believe that a two-state is possible right now.
Hopefully, Taub’s op-ed can open a few eyes to the fact that the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is the main obstacle to that peace.
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