Jeffrey Goldberg writes wistfully about the “peace process”:
I wish the Israelis had taken serious steps to reverse the settlement process; and I wish that Hamas would go away; and I wish that the Palestinian Authority didn’t argue that the Jews have no connection to the Western Wall (talk about unhelpful!).
There is not much one can do about Goldberg’s latter two wishes. Hamas is not going to go away (even though the Palestinian Authority promised to dismantle it as part of Phase I of the Roadmap); Hamas controls half the putative Palestinian state — and the Palestinians elected it to control their legislature. Elections that might reverse that are not going to happen any time soon, if ever.
Nor is it possible to do anything about Goldberg’s third wish. The PA’s argument that Jews have no connection to the Western Wall is not a new one; it is the argument Yasir Arafat made directly to Bill Clinton in the Oval Office on January 2, 2001, while rejecting the Clinton Parameters. Ten years of unhelpful! The PA’s Ministry of Information “study” posted on its website this week announces that “no Muslim or Arab or Palestinian had the right to give up one stone” of the Wall. So this too is not going to change any time soon, if ever.
But at least Goldberg’s first wish came true: while Hamas was consolidating its power and the PA was asserting that there was no Jewish connection to the Western Wall, Israel took five serious steps to reverse the settlement process:
- At Camp David in July 2000, Israel offered the PA a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, which would have required the dismantlement of all settlements other than those adjacent to Jerusalem and/or necessary for defensible borders.
- In December 2000, Israel accepted the Clinton Parameters, which would have required the dismantlement of even more settlements.
- In 2005, Israel dismantled all 21 settlements in Gaza, giving the Palestinians the opportunity to “live side by side in peace and security”™ with Israel.
- In 2008, Israel made another offer of a state to the PA on all the West Bank (after land swaps) and Gaza, demonstrating again that it would dismantle settlements for peace.
- In 2009, Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement-building to meet the Palestinian precondition to negotiations for still another offer of a state.
Five serious steps, five Palestinian rejections.
I would re-phrase Goldberg’s first wish as “I wish the PA had responded to Israel’s five serious steps regarding settlements.” But the PA is not going to respond any time soon, if ever. The problem is not the settlements, or the problem would have been solved long ago. What part of five no’s do those arguing for a sixth step not understand?