Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Is It So Urgent to Try--and Keep Failing--To Resolve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict?

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By Barry Rubin

After meeting U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton (whose last great idea was Western unilateral disarmament during the Cold War) said: "We believe that urgent progress is needed towards a two-state solution... that ends the occupation that began in 1967.”

Why? Of course, it would make sense to move ahead if it was clear that both sides wanted a deal and an agreement could easily be achieved. But in fact the Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn't even want to negotiate.

"There will not be any negotiations with Israel, in any form--direct, indirect or parallel--without an end to settlement," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee, the PA's ruling party. But in fact Israel froze construction for ten months and the PA didn't show any eagerness to negotiate then either.

Maybe the PA doesn't feel "urgent progress is needed" unless it gets everything it wants in return for nothing in exchange. Maybe it believes that its best strategy is NOT to negotiate and wait for the West--which believes that "urgent progress is needed"--to recognize a Palestinian state without needing to negotiate with Israel at all. Maybe this is precisely what the West is leading the PA to believe by statements like the one made by Ashton.

Of course, if the PA were to get Palestine without negotiating a deal with Israel (and not even controlling the Gaza Strip for that matter), what incentive would it have to agree to end the conflict forever, provide Israel with security guarantees, and drop its demand that millions of Palestinians must be allowed to flood into Israel and turn it into...part of a Palestinian Arab state?

None whatsoever.

And why does Ashton refer exclusively to something "that ends the occupation that began in 1967.” How about the attempt to destroy Israel that began in 1948, an even longer time ago? It is precisely because people like Ashton leave out this factor that they don't understand and cannot deal with the issue.

The other missing factor here is the belief that any "solution" must be better than what exists now. What good is a "solution" that would lead to more violence, instability, and extremism in the region? What Ashton is saying is the equivalent of arguing for peace at any price, which almost inevitably doesn't remain peace for very long.

Peace at any price? Ah, that's what Ashton advocated during the Cold War when she followed the Soviet line.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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