Let’s set aside the moral issue that it’s wrong to negotiate with terrorists and the practical issue that negotiating with terrorists encourages more terrorism. Those are both right and obvious, but there’s also a third issue. Negotiating with terrorists doesn’t work unless they intend to stop being terrorists.
The peace process between Israel and the PLO has never worked and will never work because the members of the terrorist group never intended to stop being terrorists. The PLO yammers on about Palestine, a country that never existed and a name that has nothing to do with the Arab conquerors they descend from, but functions like a terrorist group, not like a state.
Diplomats and politicians write up annual reports claiming that the Palestinian Authority has made progress with its civic institutions and its economic development. The truth is that if anything it has actually gone backward.
Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of running for office. The elected legislature has long been defunct and actual decisions are made by the PLO Council. The Palestinian Authority is a dictatorship run by high profile leaders of a terrorist group. It is less open and democratic than it was a decade ago and it wasn’t very open and democratic back then either.
The only progress that the latest incarnation of the peace process achieved was to give Abbas enough confidence to boot his Prime Minister who was there to assure the Euros that there was some slightly competent management at the helm. The same pundits who were praising Fayyad for salvaging the Palestinian Authority have already forgotten about him.
The international community has poured fortunes into the Palestinian Authority to construct civic institutions and engage in economic development. Despite all that, the Palestinian Authority is a smaller scale model of every regional tyranny with economic monopolies for the sons of Abbas, no freedom and no elections that matter.
Unlike them, it’s also incapable of paying for anything or maintaining its own economy.
Imagine if Assad’s regime was entirely subsidized by foreign donors. Imagine that it was also largely run by foreign experts free of charge. Imagine if it didn’t actually do anything except use aid money to pay its gangs of terrorists and bureaucrats who don’t actually do anything either except occasionally kill people.
That’s as good as the Palestinian Authority ever gets. It’s not a state, it’s a welfare state run by terrorists.
And that’s the problem.
Terrorists and states negotiate differently. Terrorists escalate a conflict to achieve leverage for their latest demand. They don’t seek a final settlement. There can be no final settlement because that would mean the end of terror.
Arafat and Abbas always negotiated the same way. They arrived prepared to disrupt the negotiating session at a crucial moment. The “peace process” was their hostage and they always hijacked it and began issuing demands.
It’s no surprise that the same thing happened yet again.
Faced with having to compromise, Abbas looked around and took the peace process hostage. Again. Now the process is, once again, on the brink of collapse. Netanyahu is resigned because this is what he knew would happen all along; as did anyone who had been paying attention for the last twenty years.
That doesn’t include John Kerry or most Western politicians and diplomats who still assume that if you get the parties to sit down at a table, they will compromise and work things out.
Negotiations work when both parties view them as an end to the conflict, rather than an extension of it. Terrorists treat a willingness to negotiate as a sign of weakness. Negotiations are their punctuation marks between bombings. The negotiations don’t end or even interrupt the conflict, they perpetuate it.
Arafat and Abbas never abandoned terrorism. Not only did they fight like terrorists, but they also negotiated like terrorists. And terrorists can’t be negotiated with because they don’t view negotiations as a long term peace process, but as a short term means of achieving their latest demand.
Abbas approached the latest pre-negotiating negotiations with Israel the same way that his terrorists approached airplane hijackings. Instead of seeking a final outcome, he instead took the negotiations hostage repeatedly to secure the release of some of his terrorists. Having achieved that goal, he then took the process hostage again to extract the release of even more important terrorists.
Israel and the United States have long term goals, but Abbas only has short term goals. He isn’t out to “liberate” Palestine, but to score some easy victories that will let him coast along as a terrorist leader.
Unlike Arafat or Bin Laden, Mahmoud Abbas is not an ambitious man and that’s a very good thing. Ambitious terrorists are much more trouble. Abbas is content with the status quo, but always looking for an angle. He may get around to getting statehood for his piece of the West Bank as long as it can include enough Israeli territory that his responsibilities and his power structure don’t have to change.
Abbas is not interested in change. Neither are most of his comrades who live very comfortably at the top of the Fatah heap. That is also why he isn’t interested in the peace process.
Israel and the United States want to end the conflict, but Abbas wants to keep it going. The conflict has been good to him. Ending it would stick him with a tiny country, accusations of treason and the tedious tasks of government.
And what’s in it for him?
The teenager who has been educated and indoctrinated by the system set up by Arafat and run by Abbas believes in dying for Palestine, but Abbas knows quite well that Palestine is just Greater Syria misspelled and that Syria isn’t looking too promising these days.
He doesn’t believe in Palestine. He believes in terrorism. He believes in Abbas.
Abbas knows his own limitations. He’s not a great leader. He isn’t capable of running a country and when it comes to playing politics, he isn’t very good at it. If the Palestinian Authority had anything like real democracy, it’s doubtful that anyone would elect him dogcatcher.
The president of the Palestinian Authority is a very lucky man and he knows it. He has wealth, power and foreign leaders take him seriously. But that’s only because he holds the key to the peace process. Fast forward another five years into some imaginary utopia in which a final settlement has been achieved and he would have trouble getting anyone to return his phone calls, let alone provide him with the foreign aid that allows him to live in the manner that he has become accustomed to.
Peace has nothing to offer Abbas. It has nothing to offer Fatah. It’s just the bait in the trap that keeps money flowing into their pockets.
Arafat didn’t have a plan for a country. He had a plan to for an international mercenary force that would fight and die in the name of a country that never existed and that he had no expectation of ever creating. The peace process didn’t change that. What it did was increase his leverage over Israel, the United States and the world.
The peace process always ends in conflict because the side that cares least about peace has all the leverage. That is why no matter how many times the negotiations begin, they always end in war.
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