The latest bad news from the Middle East is that the Palestinian Authority (the Fatah faction) has entered a “unity pact” with militant group Hamas, which has pledged never to recognize the right of Israel to exist. The talks were set to end next week, and, even before the “unity pact,” it was highly uncertain the schedule would be extended. Now we’re saying Kaddish for this latest round.
Sadly, the two-state solution to decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t about to happen–again. Secretary of State John Kerry deserves credit for making a good faith effort at diplomatic midwifery, but the baby was probably stillborn. Neither of the parties was seriously interested in taking the political risks necessary to achieve a settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let his manhood be defined by right-wing elements in his coalition government who insist on holding onto the Biblical Judea and Samaria forever. The PM, moving goalposts, acted as if the last thing he ever wanted was to achieve a fair-minded solution. [ Remember, recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” was not part of either the Egyptian or Jordanian peace treaties, but they managed to be adopted.] Netanyahu’s shortsighted and incendiary push to build settlements in the areas of East Jerusalem likely to be part of a Palestinian state clearly provided ample evidence of what Kerry rightfully called the “poof” moment.
All along, however, it has been increasingly clear that the Israelis do not have an honest partner on the other side.
As the longtime bodyguard of Yasser Arafat said in a BBC Arabic interview earlier this month, Arafat wasn’t a pathological liar, he was “an excellent liar.” When he denounced bombings in Israel, Arafat “would condemn the bombing in his own special way, saying: ‘I am against the killing of civilians.’ But that wasn’t true. The bodyguard went on to explain: “Islam allows you to lie.”
I’m certainly no expert on Islam (or on Judaism for that matter), but apparently the principle of Al-taqiyya means protective dissimulation and is the Islamic justification for lying and deceiving. One may tell lies to further Islam. And the hudna is a “tactical truce,” or ceasefire, advocated by the Prophet Mohammed, designed to shift the playing field toward a Moslem victory. Breaking the truce at a propitious time to further that goal is justified. I assume these concepts could have consequences for the peace process and any settlement ever agreed upon.
In the past I’ve praised the work of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, for translating what is often said or written in Arabic, but not conveyed at a negotiating table or to Western media. Recently it dissected Palestinian positions presented to different audiences. For example, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said to Israel and the West that he’d accept a U.N. designation of Israel as a Jewish State and wouldn’t support a flood of refugees into Israel. By contrast, Abbas told Palestinians and Arabs that he rejects Israel as a Jewish state and insists on refugees’ personal right of return. So it goes.
I don’t know what comes next in the so-called peace process. Is there really a Plan B? Speculation is now that Israel will impose as sanctions holding up tax revenues owed to the Palestinians. And the Palestinians will continue to make inroads with UN organizations. What happens if Abbas were to decide to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and turn all responsibilities back to the Israelis?
It seems Israel’s nightmare is a one-state solution. What would happen if Palestinians were to say we’re tired of fighting; we don’t want a separate state; we just want to live in peace with our Abrahamic brothers and sisters; let’s all live together in a democratic society, equal rights for all, one person/one vote. Just do the math.
I can see a wellspring of international support for such a stance that would dwarf all the current gambits. And possibly in just one generation, Israel as we know it would be history.
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