Palestinian credibility

PM Netanyahu was stood-up by the Palestinian PM Salaam Fayad last week. He simply didn’t show up for his scheduled meeting. So much for Palestinian credibility in the so-called “peace process.” Instead he sent his spokesman, Saeb Erakat, with the letter that Pres. Abbas of the PA has been promising/threatening to send to PM Netanyahu for several weeks. Having been relegated to the back pages of the newspapers by the civil war raging in Syria and the Iranian nuclear situation, the Pals are desperate for attention. Hence the much-promised letter. But, the result was a damp squib.

Whereas Israel says it wants direct talks without preconditions, Abbas says he cannot talk with Israel unless three conditions are first met, that Israel cease all building in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), that Israel agree to return to the pre-June 1967 ceasefire lines (with some adjustments) and that Israel agree to accept the Palestinian refugees. This is what is known in Arabic as “chutzpah.” First agree to all our major requirements and then maybe we’ll talk. This makes nonsense of negotiations, but is typical of the Arab approach. They think they are right (as we do) but they will accept no possible compromise, Israel must first accept their preconditions.

Abbas does not want to enter any talks with Israel for several reasons:

1. He might be assassinated, if he even talks to Israel, because he has Hamas breathing down his neck, and they are against any talks or negotiatons with Israel.

2. His position is weak, and indeed he is not even the legitimate President of the PA, since he failed to honor the last elections that were due in Jan 2009.

3. The results of the Arab uprisings is still unknown, the Presidential election in Egypt has not yet taken place and the civil war in Syria is in full swing. As a minor player in the Arab world, Abbas has to check his positon before he could possibly make any move.

4. Abbas has already stated publicly that he is going to retire soon, probably by next year. His lame duck status makes it unrealistic for him to engage in serious negotiations and makes it unlikely that Israel will take him seriously.

For these reasons, no negotiations can be expected soon, whatever the Quartet says. They engage in wishful thinking that has no relevance to the actual situation. So Abbas’s unacceptable preconditions are designed to prevent any talks from occuring.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.