Two and a half months ago, David Horovitz warned of the potential demise of the moderate Abbas-Fayyad government in Ramallah. As demonstrations and discontent spread throughout the West Bank, the fall of the PA seems increasingly possible.
The Palestinian Authority is deeply flawed. Conceived as an interim step toward Palestinian independence, the PA was entrusted with negotiating peace with Israel while laying the foundation for statehood. Without question, it has performed poorly on both counts.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to resume conflict-ending negotiations with Israel. At the same time, his regime continues to anoint the murderers of Israeli civilians as national heroes. This behavior undermines Abbas’s credibility as a genuine partner while obstructing the only viable path toward Palestinian independence: a negotiated agreement with Israel.
It’s not surprising, then, that US presidential candidate Mitt Romney would conclude that the Palestinians simply aren’t interested in peace with Israel. According to this line of argument, the US should hold off efforts to incubate a political process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The flaw in Romney’s hands-off vision for American Middle East policy is that it would hasten the collapse of the most moderate Palestinian leaders in history. At the same time, it would enable the extreme Israeli right to finally slam shut the window on a two-state outcome by expanding settlements outside of the major blocs.
Despite their shortcomings, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have staked their political lives on reaching a two-state outcome. Abbas is the first Palestinian leader to renounce violence in both word and deed. Under his presidency, he has not only adopted a policy of non-violence toward Israel, but enforced that policy by deploying US-trained and Israeli-vetted security forces to take on terrorist groups affiliated with both Fatah and Hamas. For his part, Salam Fayyad leads a cabinet whose platform is, for the first time, focused on establishing a state alongside Israel, not instead of it. Of course, none of that seems to matter to Governor Romney, because the Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.”
Candidate Romney’s response to these complex realities is for the United States to take a step back. Let the Palestinian Authority implode. Let Islamist factions regain their foothold in the West Bank. Let the Palestinian Security forces disintegrate. Let a third intifada break out. Let the situation revert to the pre-Oslo era when 19-year-old Israeli soldiers patrolled the streets of Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah, and Qalqilyah. But none of that matters, according to Romney, because the “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.”
Meanwhile, Romney will give the Netanyahu government a green light to pursue national suicide by settlement. As the extreme right sends more Israelis to live beyond the security barrier in the heart of Palestinian-populated regions of the West Bank, Romney will remind us that it’s the Palestinians who refuse to negotiate and are the obstacle to peace. Bibi will continue to stand idly by while the mostly pro-Western, pro-peace, and anti-violence Palestinian leadership is replaced by Islamist rejectionists. But that’s okay, because it’s not Israel’s fault; it’s the Palestinians who don’t want peace.
Romney may be correct in noting that at the moment, an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is impossible. He may even be correct in holding the Palestinians responsible for the present deadlock. However, as a candidate for president, Romney should lay out his vision for beaking the current deadlock, not playing the blame game and “kicking the ball down the field.”
Instead, Romney seems intent upon throwing the two-state-solution, along with Israel’s future, under the bus.