The Palestinians come to the negotiating table with absolutely nothing at all to offer. Their act of violence known as the second or Al Aqsa Intifada was utterly crushed. The first Intifada ended with negotiations that led to naught. So now the two sides find themselves sitting in front of each other once again. This time Israel holds all of the cards and the Palestinians have none.
You’d think this makes it more likely that Palestinian negotiators will go all out to ensure that they do what is necessary to walk away from these negotiations with a state for their people. You would be wrong. The Palestinian negotiators will instead go all out to make sure that the Israeli delegation walks away from the table without a state or an agreement of any kind.
Israelis will look on wondering why.
But we’re used to doing that. We have watched for decades as Palestinians have behaved in a manner that is precisely the opposite to one that would be expected from a people dreaming of having a state for themselves.
For years Israelis have watched gawping while Palestinians actually turned down deals that would have given them a homeland, something that we couldn’t possibly fathom our own leaders ever having done sixty odd years ago.
The argument put to me by several Palestinians is not that they want to live in a state of their own but a country where there are equal rights for all citizens. They don’t care what it’s called, they don’t care that there will be millions of Jews in it. They argue that they simply want to live in a country where there are full and equal rights for all people living here and that the state will look like any democratic, European country.
The one state solution.
This Utopian vision sounds pretty good to me. All of us here, Jew, Arab and Christian living together in harmony with full rights accorded to all. It sounds great until you understand that before the argument was even made one fundamental right was trampled underfoot completely.
The Jewish right to national self determination.
All rights will be respected except for the only one that really matters to Jews. Our need for our own land is the reason Zionism was such a powerful driving force uniting Jews from all over the world. The ideology that ensured the revival of a dead language and the creation of a Jewish voice among the United Nations of this world.
Palestinians consistently make the mistake of thinking that our yearning for peace can actually override our desire for self rule. This is a mistake that has cost them dearly. It’s the one right that we’ll fight for with every breath in our bodies, peace be damned.
And so we come to the Palestinian demands, both those of the official Palestinian negotiators and those of the Palestinian diaspora. For the vast majority of Israeli commentators there’s nothing to negotiate now that hasn’t already been negotiated. The Palestinian homeland roughly based on the 1967 boundaries with alterations made to allow for settlements and the annexation of Jerusalem.
It even feels cliched to mention this.
But these negotiations don’t incorporate the attitude of the Palestinian diaspora. There are Palestinians around the world who genuinely believe that Israelis and Jews must give up on the very idea of having a land of their own. They argue that the very existence of the country is proof of Jewish racism. They don’t live with checkpoints and settlements defining their reality and have nothing to gain from their removal. Anything that so much as looks like a peace treaty with Israel will look to them like a betrayal. In short they are standing in the way of a Palestinian state, mainly because the state being negotiated is one that doesn’t offer them anything. For them the Right of Return is what matters.
This is why time and again the talks have failed. The so called Right of Return, the demand that all Palestinians be given the chance to ‘return’ to their ancestral homes in what was once Palestine is the one delusion that the Palestinian leadership never had the courage to confront their own people over.
This is the Palestinian problem, the elephant in the room that Palestinians need to resolve before even sitting before Israel at the peace table. But they won’t, they would rather simply wait at that table until Israel walks away or the talks fade away into nothing.