Just in case there were any doubts, last week provided conclusive proof: Yes, Palestinian violence pays. And the so-called “enlightened” countries–those Western states who claim to deplore violence and favor the peaceful resolution of conflicts–are the very ones who will reward violence the most. That’s precisely what happened with the Palestinians’ successful bid for UN recognition as a nonmember observer state.
Most European countries understood that this move would at best not advance the peace process, and at worst hinder it. So some had planned to vote no, while others planned to abstain. But then Hamas dramatically escalated its rocket fire on Israel, forcing Israel to respond; Hamas thus became the center of world attention while the Palestinian Authority was sidelined. So in an effort to give the PA a boost, European governments switched their votes at the last minute: Those who had planned to vote no abstained, and those who had planned to abstain voted yes. In other words, they agreed to support something they had previously considered “unhelpful” just because Hamas fired lots of rockets at Israel.
But the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. These same European countries are now furious at Israel’s response: They thought they had an understanding with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel would let the UN vote pass quietly. And in fact, they did. The only minor detail they’re overlooking is that Netanyahu agreed not to retaliate for the UN vote in exchange for what he thought was a European commitment to either vote against or abstain. In short, the Europeans reneged on their side of the unwritten deal, but are furious that Israel isn’t upholding its side anyway.
That is a microcosm of what’s wrong with the peace process as a whole: As far as most of the world is concerned, bilateral Israeli agreements are binding on one side only: Israel. Thus it’s perfectly fine with the Europeans for the PA to violate one of its cardinal commitments under the peace process: that all disputes will be resolved through negotiations rather than unilaterally–or as the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement put it, “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” But it’s an outrage, completely beyond the pale, for Israel to respond by doing something that no signed agreement actually bars it from doing: In no agreement did Israel ever promise to halt construction in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.
So here’s what we’ve learned from the past week’s events: Palestinians should keep shooting rockets at Israel, because Europe will reward them for it by punishing Israel. And Israel should never again make any agreement with the Palestinians, because the Palestinians won’t be bound by it at all, whereas Israel will be bound not only by what the deal actually says, but by what the Palestinians and their Europeans allies think it should have said.
You’d think countries that claim to abhor violence and favor diplomacy could find better lessons to be teaching, wouldn’t you?