Commentary Magazine


Contentions

How Not to Conduct a Peace Process

Our colleague Michael Rubin testified this morning before a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee hearing on Fatah-Hamas “reconciliation.” He presented a very valuable short history of the failure to enforce Palestinian “peace process” commitments, worth reading in its entirety. Here is a brief excerpt from his prepared testimony

After a wave of terrorist attacks followed Palestinian assurances that terror would cease, President George W. Bush had had enough. Engagement for engagement’s sake had failed. He decided to take a zero tolerance approach. … The State Department resisted Bush’s new approach. … Amidst international criticism and resistance from within his own administration … Bush abandoned his principled stand, and the State Department quickly reverted to business as usual. A no-nonsense demand to end terrorism before diplomacy gave way to the Road Map, whose own benchmarks soon fell victim to a desire to keep the Palestinians at the table.

The sad story of Condoleezza Rice’s attempt to “accelerate” the three-phase Road Map by skipping Phase I and II has been told here. Rice oversaw a yearlong final-status negotiation, with monthly trips to the region, transforming herself into the virtual desk officer of the process, and produced in 2008 still another Israeli offer of a state–from which the Palestinian president (then in the fourth year of his four-year term) walked away. He suffered no consequence, nor even criticism.

On the contrary, the following year, the Obama administration nearly doubled financial aid to him and commenced pressuring … Israel. The Palestinians responded by setting preconditions never set before; demanded a construction freeze that they ignored once they got it; and went to the UN not once but twice, violating both times their written Oslo agreement not to take “any step” outside negotiations to change the legal status of the disputed territories. These days, the Palestinians are in their perennial reconciliation talks with their premier terrorist group (and Iranian ally), while the State Department is urging Congress to release more money to them. It is arguable that the ever-increasing flow of money had a negative rather than positive effect on the process; and maintaining it while the Palestinian Authority negotiates with the group it promised to dismantle is not likely to produce a good result.

Rubin concluded his testimony today by stating that in ignoring accountability for Palestinian failures, and treating U.S. assistance to the Palestinian government as an entitlement, the Obama administration is committing “a grave strategic error which could permanently handicap prospects for peace and instead encourage a more devastating conflict.” It is no surprise that a process that demands continual concessions from one side, with no consequences for the other (even for failure to abide by the promises already made), has not produced peace.