To the two parties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (ignoring the wider Arab-Israeli scope for a moment), the desire to exercise their right to self-determination is a huge part of their decision-making process. Just as Israel has constantly sought recognition from the Arab states around it of its right to exist, so too the Palestinians hope to earn sovereignty and recognition over a territory of their own. The Israelis, militarily more powerful, still fear the impossible-to-prevent terrorism that Palestinians today support. The Palestinians, weaker militarily, fear state-sponsored oppression and settlement growth, the latter of which the Israeli public supports. If both parties are indeed so afraid, why are they not more motivated for peace? And if they are motivated for peace on the public level, why has this not led to elite-level talks?
The problem is apparent: one side is not being immediately pressured to take peace. While the Israeli public supports a two-state solution, and recognizes its increasing isolation, support and pressure on the Palestinian leadership is lacking. Even as the Palestinian public’s support for a two-state solution dips to 48 percent (51 percent opposed) versus the Israeli public’s 58 percent support, the Palestinian leadership has opted instead to take a number of unilateral steps on the world stage: recognition as a non-member state at the United Nations, gaining membership at the International Criminal Court, and being recognized (in some cases tentatively) by a handful of European states.
This has, it seems, been a trend that makes Palestinian leaders believe they have no need to negotiate. As they claim Israel has avoided negotiating in good faith, they seek to impose immediate preconditions on Israel. As they accuse Israel of illegally placing “facts on the ground” with West Bank settlements (mostly expanding inwards in major blocs already likely to be included in any peace deal), the Palestinian seek to create their own “facts of negotiations”.
One might argue, fairly at first glance, that settlements are nothing more than preconditions themselves. By this logic, why are Palestinian preconditions barriers?
The problem here is the logical premise behind this analogy. Settlements are a topic of negotiation, first and foremost, with Israel being prepared in the past to evacuate over 20 percent of their population, over 100,000 civilians whose only crime was living in the West Bank. This, of course, at the behest of a now-dictator who has overstayed his mandate for leadership by 6 years (having been elected to a 4 year term in January 2005).
The second problem is that these settlements have led to repercussions. The United States has referred to them as illegal, and called them an obstacle to peace numerous times, even prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank (and secretly East Jerusalem) for 10 months. During those 10 months, only indirect negotiations ever took place, with direct negotiations only beginning in the last month.
At the same time, the European Union has threatened to place sanctions on settlement products, and numerous companies have stopped working with Israeli firms. Ignoring that these acts of divestment harm ordinary Israelis, an act of collective punishment encouraged by the Palestinian leadership, where is the similar act compelling Palestinian leaders to come to the table?
When the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter of condolences calling a Palestinian who shot a civilian a “martyr” who would “go to heaven”, where was the world response? When his Fatah party’s branch praised the Palestinian who killed an Israeli infant as a holy martyr, where were the sanctions on Palestinian businesses?
Watch Mahmoud Abbas praise multiple terrorists responsible for the deaths of civilians.
To be fair, harming the Palestinian economy is a lot easier than the Israeli one. It is less diversified, more reliant on foreign aid, and a lot weaker. Even so, why do we see resolutions from the United Nations General Assembly condemning Israeli settlements (as on December 5, 2014, with A/RES/69/92), saying that:
…the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.
While not condemning any incitement or action by Palestinian leaders? These resolutions were adopted in full view of a Palestinian Authority President (I haven’t even started counting the Hamas actions, they’re too long for this) who has praised the attempt to assassinate Israeli civilians as a heaven-worthy act. while in the current session of the UN General Assembly (69th session begun September 2014) there have been 14 resolutions regarding Israel or the Palestinians. Of them, 7 contain either some variation of “concern” about Israeli actions (grave concern, deep concern, or otherwise) or some demand of Israel (“calling upon” or “demands” or otherwise). The rest imply action must be taken by Israel.
The total that talk about the need for Palestinian action? None. Not a single one condemns the incitement of Mahmoud Abbas. Not a single one condemns the actions of Palestinian terrorists specifically who attack Israeli civilians. Not a single one expresses concern about the failure of Palestinians to accept viable peace resolutions. How will the Palestinians ever be pressured to negotiate in good faith if the world is unwilling to do anything but infantilize them constantly?
It should come as no surprise that Palestinians, led by this man and by Hamas in Gaza, have come to support terror. For example, consider this poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research over December 3-6, 2014. When asked:
Recently there has been an increase in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank in attempts to stab or run over Israelis. Do you support or oppose these attempts?
The response was:
- 34.4 percent “certainly support”
- 45.1 percent “support”
- 17 percent “oppose”
- 2.5 percent “certainly oppose”
- 1 percent “don’t know/not available”
Is it any wonder that these results will be found? Pressure is not being put on Palestinian leaders to stop incitement to violence. There is no pressure on Palestinian elites to return to negotiations. One might expect that their duty, sense of civic responsibility perhaps, might compel them to do so. Unfortunately, it appears that just as it was easier for the last leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, to build a corrupt network and squirrel away aid money (sometimes to terrorists), so too have Mahmoud Abbas and his family managed to profit off of now-missing aid money, some of which goes to funding the salaries of released terrorists.
The real problem is simple: if you’re going to pressure Israelis to come to the table and negotiate, you have to do the same for Palestinians. When Israel enacted its settlement freeze, Abbas did no better with negotiating in good faith. And during the most recent round, when Abbas forced Israel to release terrorists merely for the opportunity to negotiate, the world had no right to blame Israeli intransigence for the failure of negotiations.