Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Salah Abu Miala, a Hebron businessman, traveled to Bahrain to attend the Bahrain peace conference. When he returned home, he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority.
A security official for the Islamic terror group admitted that there was no actual charge.
"It was a warning," he said. "He must understand the implications of this sort of collaboration."
Collaboration with the United States. The country that set up the PA and lavished billions in aid on it.
Another businessman managed to evade the crackdown on peace conference attendees.
The Palestinian Authority had not only boycotted the peace conference, but it arrested participants in the peace conference, and warned that participating in the peace conference was collaboration.
Collaboration, under Palestinian Authority law, can be punishable by death.
The message is that the Palestinian Authority really doesn’t want peace. It has sabotaged peace conferences under Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump. Every approach running the same narrow gamut from pressuring Israel to bribing the Palestinian Authority has been tried. They all end the same.
Just ask Salah who was locked up for attending a peace conference.
The pattern here is so obvious that it would take a diplomat or a politician to miss it. That’s why we’ve been mired in it for so long. And the billions of dollars wasted and thousands of lives lost could have been saved if only our leaders had questioned their premises by asking three simple questions.
1. What if the Palestinians don’t want peace?
2. What if there are no Palestinians?
3. What if there’s no such thing as peace?
The three assumptions, that the Palestinians exist, that they want peace, and that enduring peace is an attainable condition in the region, are at the root of the senselessly Sisyphean peace process.
The peace process was launched under the assumption that the PLO really wanted peace. Or at least a deal. Surely, our best and brightest agreed, they couldn’t possibly want an endless war.
And so, the truth was dismissed out of hand. It was too horrible to believe.
Decades of failed negotiations, rafts of Israel concessions, personal involvement by five presidential administrations, billions of dollars, with nothing to show for it, and the truth is still dismissed.
Instead, the official story is that Israel doesn’t want peace. The media echo chamber resounds with a narrative in which Israel has moved sharply to the right and is run by ultra-orthodox religious fanatics.
And Netanyahu, who is hardly anyone’s idea of an ultra-religious fanatic.
Also, the most right-wing party in the last Israeli election ran on a platform of marijuana legalization.
But it’s easier to claim that Israel doesn’t want peace than that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t. If Israel doesn’t want peace, that just goes to show that it’s a bad actor and must forced for its own good. If the Palestinian Authority doesn’t want peace, then the whole political premise of the process dies.
Israeli misbehavior can always be met with economic and political pressure. If the PA doesn’t want peace on any terms, that means it was never really a government, just a front for a terror group.
And that terror group became vastly more powerful and dangerous because of the peace process.
Before the peace process, the idea that the PLO might not want peace seemed implausible. In the post-peace process, the idea is an explosive scandal whose culpability extends through the political establishments of dozens of countries, including America and Israel. And so, it can’t be talked about.
Why did so many experts come to believe, against all evidence, that the PLO wanted peace? The error came about because the establishment had accepted the PLO’s propaganda that it was leading a national struggle to set up a state on behalf of a population of displaced and oppressed people.
The truth was that Palestine, as an Arab cultural minority as opposed to a defunct Roman colony, was as much of a mythical invention as the Islamic State with its Caliph. Like ISIS, Hezbollah and countless Islamic terror groups around the region, the terror group tapped into grievances among a local minority, invented an identity for them, and, backed by foreign donors, launched a campaign to “liberate” them.
There are dozens of similar enterprises going on in the region at any given time. They don’t enjoy the same level of support and recognition as the PLO does. None of them can actually run a state. Or want to. But neither does anyone else in the region. That’s why it’s always on the verge of exploding.
That brings us to the third assumption.
Peace as the natural state of the world is an exciting European delusion from just after one war and then another war that devastated the continent. There is as little evidence for this idea in human history as there is for the existence of a Palestinian kingdom, empire or anthill. And even less evidence for either the existence of peace or the Palestinians in its own region which has never experienced either one.
Even in Europe, the inevitability of peace keeps being interrupted by wars every generation. There are soldiers in the streets of Paris, where the first League of Nations meeting was held, fighting the war that France failed to fight in Algeria. After reviling the Pied-Noirs, the French are two generations away from becoming a nation of Pied-Noirs themselves, fleeing to Montreal to escape the Battle of Paris.
Peace is not the natural condition of mankind. It is a lovely thing that sometimes happens.
Generations of western diplomats keep stumbling into disasters because they believe that peace is inevitable. Therefore, the other side is bound to want it, because it wants the same things they do.
They never ask the terrible question, what if the other side wants something else?
Our foreign policy keeps falling apart because we never ask that question. We take the other side’s claims at face value and view them through the flawed lens of our own wants and needs. We want peace; therefore, they must want it too. We want the killing to stop, how could they not?
No matter how many times peace fails, the fundamental assumptions are never questioned.
What if instead of negotiating with a national minority that wants land for its own state, we’ve been funding an Islamic terror group that was set up by the USSR to destabilize the region?
Which of these two possibilities better explains the history of failures in the peace process?
If the Palestinian Authority were a terror group set up by the USSR to destabilize the region, undermine Israel’s existence, and drag America into a messy conflict, what would it be doing differently?
There’s no solution here. There never was. The region is never at peace for longer than a week. When peace can’t even hold between Sunnis and Shiites, how was it supposed to hold between either Muslim group and the Jews? The Arab Spring reminded us that every state in the region is just one crackup away from splitting apart into a civil war. What made anyone think that a terror group could create a state?
Or that it even wanted to.
We can solve the problem that five administrations have struggled with if we reevaluate our flawed assumptions about the world, the Palestinian Authority and the fictional people it represents.
All we have to do is ask the right three questions.