Yes, it is our fault

Beirut 1982
Beirut 1982

Livni is weary and angry.  Kerry draws a long face and talks of horses. Obama goes for another round of golf at Andrews Air Force Base  and the Middle-East Peace Process fizzles and dies.  If it wasn’t clear long ago, it is clear now. It is, really, Israel’s fault.

No, I do not need to read the Economist, nor the Financial Times nor even the Times of Israel .  It is clear, so crystal clear that Israel, perhaps not only, but basically yes, is responsible for the failure of this round of talks and, in fact , each round of talks since the Oslo Agreements. Israel is responsible because we are the ones who have made our “partners” in the talks our partners. We chose them.

Over 30 years ago I was in Beirut and saw how the last of the armed elements of the PLO were exiled to Tunis. From our base in a school near Baabda overlooking Bourj Al Barajnenh we could see the PLO headquarters, and the preparations there for the “fighters” to leave. Tails between their legs they boarded ships and sailed off leaving the glamour of Beirut forever. There was a vague hope that the PLO would either die or reform. It did neither.

One reason why the PLO survived was that Israel threw away what advantage she had, throwing the PLO a victory when Israel released 65 Palestinian prisoners in November 1983 (Fatah exchange) and then another victory when Israel released another 1150 prisoners and detainees in May 1985 (the Jibril Agreement). While the first Fatah exchange was limited and relatively tolerable, the Jibril exchange was without precedence and invigorated radical elements in Judea and Shomron. Those released in the Jibril exchange became the backbone of the Palestinian leadership in the first “Intifada”. Instead of defeating terror, we enabled it.

Since then much blood has been spilt, both of Israelis and Palestinians, particularly of moderate Palestinians willing to work with Israelis  (which the more extreme Palestinians call “collaborators”  and viciously hunt down) . Hand in hand with succoring our enemies, we abandoned our allies,  who knowing what was best for them quit their jobs in the Civil Administration and fled for their lives. They flee from us till today.

So Israel established a pattern, and the PLO, now resuscitated, soon became the only “viable” option, mainly because it was armed, better organized, and willing to use terror against its enemies, in particularly, moderate elements that could threaten its hegemony. The result, despite Rabin’s election promises to the contrary was an agreement with Arafat : the Oslo Accords. The unthinkable was now inevitable, and all the warnings of critics scorned as the empty waving of windmills in the wind.

Rabin’s dismissal, even scorn, of  his domestic opponents was only the start. One of the precepts of the Oslo Accords was to let the Palestinian Authority fight off their opposition without the constraints of either legal process or concerns for human rights. The result is a severe restriction in press freedom in the PA and  other human rights there. Today, Israel props up Abbas’s corrupt, and incompetent  regime on “Israeli  bayonets” making us de facto accomplices in an authoritarian kleptocracy.  The result is fewer economic opportunities for PA residents: unemployment, higher prices and lower wages. In return, Israel is accused of occupying Palestine in international forums and  PA failures are presented as Israel’s responsibility.

Since Oslo till now, the PLO  has been our negotiating partner, but the PLO, like the leopard  from Jeremiah, has yet to change its spots and is, in its essence , still a terrorist organization seeking what they can in order to realize a Palestine from river to sea.  Perhaps Abbas says he is seeking a two state solution, but in PA schools Yafo and Haifa are occupied Palestine,  murderers of women and children are martyrs, the Right of Return is sacred  and the struggle for an “independent Palestine” is still a holy Jihad. For our part, we are full partners in our own deception and many of us seem to revel in it. For those inebriated in the peace process, Abbas will always be a moderate and will always be a partner. So they say: Begin and Shamir were once terrorists and they changed; so has Abbas. Except that Abbas hasn’t changed and he never will.

Facing the end of this round of the talks (don’t worry, there will be others), it is perhaps time that we face our own culpability for choosing a  partner that by nature and ideology isn’t capable of changing their mind set and accepting us and our legitimacy. Even if our options are few and men of good will and courage (on both sides) even fewer, it is time to take stock of where we are now and try to change something.  We are not condemned by our past mistakes.

We can, and should admit to our blunder of redeeming the PLO from its exile in Tunis  and we can and should target the current PA leadership with personal sanctions when it is clear that they have not renounced terror.  Perhaps we can not replace the ruling Fatah clique, but we no longer should deal with them until it is clear that they are willing to compromise. We can and even must demand that the PA be made accountable and in turn, reward cooperation with cooperation, good will with good will.

Our continued efforts to negotiate with the PA is like doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results and is insane. Worse, each time we fail, we will always appear to be the party that is guilty, regardless of the implacableness of our partner in the negotiations. We don’t need a Plan B. We don’t need more spin. We need honesty , first and foremost from ourselves. Time to see where we failed and for us to make amends.



About the Author
Shlomo Toren has been a resident of Israel since 1980, and a transportation planner for the last 25 years. He has done demand modeling for the Jerusalem Light Rail and Road 6. He is married to Neera and lives in Shiloh.