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So, You Think the Palestinians Are Actually Interested in Negotiating?

As I noted earlier, one area in which Palestinians need no help from anyone is finding excuses to shun negotiations. Currently, of course, they are claiming Israel’s position on borders leaves no room for progress. But if you want to see the real reason talks are stalemated, take a look at what happened last week, when Israel tried to present its position on security arrangements at a negotiating session in Amman: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat refused  to even let the Israeli official speak, saying he had no “mandate to negotiate security arrangements” until Israel presented “detailed documents” with its position on borders.

Everyone involved in the peace process has always understood that borders and security are intimately connected, because how much territory Israel is willing to cede will depend on the robustness of the compensatory security arrangements. That’s why even President Barack Obama, in his May 2011 speech calling for a “borders first” approach that would defer issues like Jerusalem and the refugees until later, didn’t propose deferring security; he suggested that talks focus first on “territory and security.” Thus, if the Palestinians aren’t even willing to listen to Israel’s positions on security arrangements, they clearly aren’t interested in conducting serious negotiations at all. As Israel’s chief negotiator aptly told Erekat, “If you do not have the mandate to discuss this, maybe you should leave and bring someone in your place who does have the mandate.”

But that isn’t the only evidence; equally telling is the ever-growing list of “gestures” the Palestinians are demanding from Israel in exchange for deigning to sit in the same room with Israeli officials. For months, they said the condition for continued talks was a freeze on settlement construction. But now, even this isn’t enough: Nimer Hammad, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said earlier this month the PA also demands a release of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel, the dismantling of Israeli security checkpoints in the West Bank and the transfer of additional chunks of West Bank territory to PA control – or in other words, that Israel cede territory prior to negotiations instead of as a result of negotiations.

Even worse, the “international community” is pressuring Israel to agree to these demands, seemingly incapable of seeing the obvious: If the Palestinians had any interest in holding genuine negotiations, they wouldn’t need to be bribed with lavish Israeli concessions just to get them to enter the room.

And that, of course, brings us to the other obvious corollary that the “international community” willfully refuses to see: If the Palestinians had any real interest in obtaining a state, they wouldn’t need to be bribed, cajoled and arm-twisted just to get them to hold talks with the only party that can actually give them one –Israel.

But to admit that is to admit  the entire peace process is a fraud and a failure, and that is too painful. It’s much more comfortable to keep pretending that peace could be achieved if Israel would just give a little more.


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