Despite international concern that fragile Palestinian-Israeli peace talks would derail following the expiration of a partial moratorium on West Bank settlement expansion, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas revealed that he would not walk away from the table if the moratorium was not resumed. Indeed, as the expiration time passed at 6pm Sunday evening, both parties remained engaged in peace talks – though for how long appears uncertain.
For weeks, Abbas has threatened to abandon negotiations if the 10-month construction freeze is not extended. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to capitulate to the demand, noting that the moratorium was initially enacted as a concession to Palestinians, who did not even acknowledge the olive branch until almost a year later. The Israeli decision to allow the moratorium to expire is its signal that it does not view the peace talks as a process in which it is expected to meet every Palestinian demand while Palestinians continue to reject Israeli’s right to exist, wage terror against Israelis and preach hatred of Jews in their mosques, schools and media. As is tragically underscored by the Israeli death toll that has been suffered at the hands of Palestinians, Netanyahu is interested in a peace deal only if it means securing an end to the endless Palestinian slaughter of Israelis – and to the Palestinian justifications for such slaughter.
“I say to President Abbas,” Netanyahu entreated after the moratorium ended, “for the sake of our two peoples, let’s focus on what really matters. Let’s continue expedited and serious peace talks to reach a historic framework peace agreement within a year.”
But prospects of this do not seem to be realistic, even if peace talks continue, and even if they achieve noteworthy results. Just hours before the moratorium expired, a radical Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), declared it would suspend membership in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the umbrella Palestinian coalition which Abbas represents. The group stated publicly that it does not want to participate in peace talks and, furthermore, would not be “a cover for policies that would devastate the national cause.” It is an intriguing and honest declaration to be sure: the pursuit of a Palestinian state, which Israel is trying to usher the way for, would devastate the “national cause.” Once again it is clear that, as history has shown time and again, Palestinians are more interested in destroying the Jewish state than in creating their own.
What this dire situations portends for Israel is precisely what Netanyahu is at the table trying prevent: a future for the Jewish State which does not differ appreciably from the daily terror and insecurity it now faces and has always faced. He must also be cautious not to jeopardize Israeli security further in the name of “peace” – something that the Oslo process tragically achieved. If all Palestinian constituencies are not on board for peace – Hamas and the PFLP are clearly not – and if “moderate” factions are not willing to repudiate or take action against those who readily adopt terroristic measures, which they are clearly not – then Israel has nothing to gain and everything to lose. There is no reason to assist in, or even tolerate, the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state if it will only serve as a stronghold for more Arab terror against Israeli innocents.
Israel may well soon find itself in a different, but equally vexing, predicament: although Abbas is still scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss peace matters today (Monday, September 27), the Palestinian leader now claims that to go forward with the process in light of the moratorium expiration, he will have to consult with the Arab League monitoring committee on October 4. This is what will determine a continuation or abandonment of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, according to Abbas.
The chances of this meeting yielding a positive outcome for Israel are small to say the least. Because so much hay was made out of the moratorium extension being a necessary condition for the continuance of negotiations, if the council decides to rescind Palestinian participation, it will be widely perceived that Israeli “intransigence” is to blame. Israeli settlements, now referred to all too commonly, but wrongly, as “illegal” outgrowths, are very unpopular in the international community – thanks to the embrace of Islamist and leftist propaganda. Even President Obama, in an effort to avoid negotiation failure, argued that extending the moratorium just “ma[de] sense.”
If the Arab League allows peace talks to end, Israel’s enemies will have a convenient weapon with which to wage their propaganda war anew. But that’s nothing new for Israel, which, at least, will avoid a “peace deal” that will jeopardize its citizens’ safety even further.