Excuse Me, Is This the Road to Peace?

Gershom Gorenberg

The terror attack south of Hebron took place a few hours after I filed my curtain-raiser on the Washington peace talks for the American Prospect. Besides my pain at hearing of the deaths, I also had a tinge of professional self-criticism: Without intending to, I’d made a prediction of quiet in the West Bank, simply by describing, in present tense, the quiet that had existed in recent months. And I’d forgotten the iron rule of Israeli-Palestinian negotiating: The people who regard any compromise as betrayal will do their best – or rather, their worst – to stop diplomacy by igniting a new cycle of attack, crackdowns, rage and more terror.

In this case, the killers seek to discredit the Palestinian Authority and its extenisve efforts to prevent violence. Most Israelis and Palestinians already appear pessimistic about the talks, but hard-liners are desperately afraid that the negotiations might just bring a peace agreement. If the Israeli public can be convinced that the PA is either soft on terror or complicit in it, the fragile foundation for negotiations might crumble.

Despite Hamas’s latest attacks, the real problem in the negotiations is the imbalance that I described in my article:

On one hand, the Palestinian Authority is keeping its obligation under the 2003 road map “to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere.” Not only have Abbas and Fayyad declared a policy of negotiations instead of violence to achieve independence, the American-trained PA security forces are in fact enforcing a ceasefire….

On the other hand, the most important requirement that the road map placed upon Israel has not been met. The growth of West Bank settlements hasn’t stopped. The moratorium of recent months has barely brought a slowdown in construction, since it exempted 3,000 homes that had already been built when it came into force. Settler leaders and supportive officials are ready to make up for any lost time the moment the supposed moratorium ends.

Let’s be morally and politically precise here: Building settlements and blowing people up are not equivalent offenses. Settlements can be taken down or given up; the dead will not return to life. Violence against Palestinians has often been a consequence of settlement activity, but bloodshed is not written in the plans.

Nonetheless, from 1967 till today settlements have been part of a strategy of thwarting Palestinian political aspirations. A series of master plans drawn up by government officials and settlement leaders since the right-wing Likud took power in 1977 are more specific in their goals: To create strips of settlement-controlled land that run the length and breadth of the West Bank, restricting the Palestinians to shrinking enclaves. If construction resumes at full speed on Sept. 27, it will conform to this strategy.

This means that the renewed peace talks will be conducted under conditions of a one-sided ceasefire….

The full article is here.

7 thoughts on “Excuse Me, Is This the Road to Peace?”

  1. The PA’s actions in Judea and Samaria have been a great improvement, but they do not come close to fulfilling the Security conditions of the Road Map:

    Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.

    Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.

  2. You write, “Settlements can be taken down or given up; the dead will not return to life. ”

    I certainly agree with the second assertion; the first seems rather naive.

  3. The peace talks are a farce.

    Settlements will stop when Israel cannot afford them. They would stop immediately if the U.S. could cut the flow of funds to Israel. If that doesn’t happen, on we go same-old, same-old.

    Proof is in the deal for F-35 fighters, where the concern is too much U.S. money will be used by Israel for them, cutting the amount of U.S. money that can be used by Israel to buy more bombs and ammo, drawn down by Cast Lead.

    The armed colossus of the Middle East is a house of cards without American hardware and money.

    You’d think that this would be crystal clear to Obama, just as it is to the entire world outside of the United States. But, no, let’s continue with the charade and, as long as we do, the settlers have freedom to do as they wish.

    So the faces are irrelevant; it doesn’t matter who represents Israel, who represents the Pals or who is president.

    I would like to hark back to American slavery days, recalling the “peculiar institution”, to coin a new phrase for an equally immovable roadblock – “the peculiar relationship” – the one-way money train to Israel from the U.S.

    That train must be derailed. If not, everything else is just talking in the air while the Pals continue to lose their land.

    Some, including Obama, may think he is engaged in great statesmanship. In reality, he might as well be dressed as a jester engaged with Natanyahu and Abbas in a little dance for all the significance this has.

    American power must be exercised. The Prez knows he ain’t got it and Congress is in Israel’s pocket. I wonder if a smiling Bibi will appear for another photo-op with Nancy Pelosi.

    Honest broker! ROFL

  4. “Only Nixon could go to China”.

    Please don’t hurt yourselves on the floor, but isn’t it just possible that “only Netanyahu” can negotiate with the Palestinians?

    Isn’t that why his coalition is so broad? So that some one day can be shed without collapsing the government?

    Clif’s point about the “house of cards without American hardware and money” should be thought about seriously. What happens in 25 years when the U.S. can’t afford it’s Navy or Air Force any more?

  5. What will the settlers do? What of their grief and anger and righteous vindication that they know what they deal with? How can there be a nonviolent response if one doesn’t address what they endure? The answer, some to most will say, is that there cannot be such a response.

    Find a way. Look at the enemy and find a way. And there are always multiple enemies, many places to look, no single vista.

    Which is the only hope I see.

  6. Good one, Gershom, particularly your final paragraph. What I don’t understand is why no one (at least in the Jewish press) seems to realize that the Palis have the building freeze in the bag: All they have to do is not show up for work on September 27th. Has no one considered this scenario?

  7. It seems the BBC made a similar error – predicting that growing prosperity and (of all things) a new cinema in Jenin was enough to indicate a wind down in violence (http://bit.ly/bFkLJi).

    But remember, just because there is SOME violence doesn’t mean there can’t be peace. During the negotiations for the end to conflict in Northern Ireland the politicians on both sides didn’t talk about looking for no violence, merely “an acceptable level” of violence.

    Setting that threshold just a tiny bit higher prevents the process being derailed by lunatics on the extremes.

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