Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

A famous statement from an American movie from 1987; Dirty Dancing serves as an analogy for the truncated life of Palestinians in the West Bank living largely under the Israeli thumb since 1967. There was an Oslo process that returned the leadership of the PLO to Gaza and the West Bank from Tunis and began the course to peace and two States only to have it disrupted by violence, an assassination, repeated violations of the terms by the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel alike and the divergent desires of two peoples and all of their contradictory supporters. After all the failures including countless missteps by a defanged Palestinian leadership including its most recent fiasco orchestrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the hope for the American mediated peace process to net peace and an independent state for the Palestinian people even as Israel continues to build in the West Bank and East Jerusalem seems a fool’s errand.

Is it also a fool’s errand to go to the Security Council of the UN in a unilateral effort to improve its standing, its quest for a State of its own and maybe a better deal than it can ever negotiate through the Americans? Is the American ability to provide the Palestinians with some $400 million a year and Israel’s rule over the West Bank enough to prevent the Palestinian Authority from joining the International Criminal Court and pursuing a charge of War Crimes against Israel? In 2015 the options available to President Abbas seem to be severely limited with age pressing against his ability to determine anything at all for very much longer. He is weak, dependent on a strange Unity agreement with his internal enemy Hamas that he himself created in the wake of failing peace negotiations and dependent as well on the blessing and beneficence of his Arab and European partners in addition to the United States, (and maybe now in their place).

It looks pretty unlikely from an Israeli perspective that all these maneuvers will accomplish anything other than gaining the momentary focus of the world community on the Palestinian Question at a time when Syria/Iraq and the whole world are struggling with an Islamic fundamentalist that is killing tens of thousands and creating millions of new refugees. The same world community has increasingly grown tired of managing a 47 year old occupation that it has played and continues to play several roles in as it continues to pay UNRWA to mind a growing number of, (some 5 million), refugees that it counts differently than every other refugee that the United Nation recognizes and supports on our small planet. In the aftermath of the most recent war between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptian led Reconstruction Conference on October 12, 2014 generated promises of over $5 billion from the international community. Those promises have not been translated into dollars made available for the reconstruction because of problems between the PA and Hamas, between Hamas, Egypt and Israel and between the PA and the international community. And thus the blight in Gaza that accompanied another war with Israel continues to exist and represent one more unresolved dilemma on top of the 2000 plus deaths in Gaza that were the most striking human outcome of this unending conflict.

There is little doubt that Israel will punish the Palestinian Authority for going to the ICC, (it is already withholding some $127 million in taxes), and that in not waiting for the possibility of the Israeli elections to engender a new and more friendly government in March/April, the United States and many of its European partners will turn their backs on the Palestinians, (who many believe may have increased the likelihood of another Netanyahu led government though their actions). But even as the Israelis talk of security, the dangers of protecting the Jordan Valley, and a belief in peace, the Palestinian people seek a justice that does not equate with peace and may in fact stand in its way. Will they ring out justice from the ICC or only hollow words that will fill the air not so unlike other promises and deliver little of substance to a Palestinian people that have been held in a corner for far too long? It is good to consider the position of Mahmoud Abbas and to see the world from his vantage point as his options continue to diminish.

The anger, fear and hatred of Palestinians and Israelis toward each other may well prevent peace for decades. Unless and until both sides decide that it is in their interest to make the concessions necessary to sit down and hammer out a deal that provides enough peace and security and freedom to both peoples to make it more desirable than the death of any more residents of the Holy Land they will continue to fight a war that both sides can only continue to lose.

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.