Palestinian intransigence and preconditions – but it’s all Israel’s fault

Here we go again: Palestinian “President” (when was his term up? 4 years ago? 5?) Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dismantle the Palestinian Authority (the PA) if peace talks with Israel don’t start.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dismantle the PA should US Secretary of State John Kerry fail to “salvage the peace process,” a senior PA official said Tuesday.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA minister for civilian affairs, said that Abbas has informed Kerry that the PA’s functional role would end if current efforts to revive the peace process did not succeed.

“Israel, as an occupying force, would then have to assume full responsibility [over the Palestinian population],” Sheikh told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.

I would ask if dismantling the PA is a bug or a feature. But Abbas plays a dangerous game: Walk out of the room, dump the problem on the Israelis, and then declare them “occupiers” by default. It’s a win-win situation for the Palestinians. Either the Israelis have to give in on all the Palestinian pre-conditions for the “privilege” of having them agree to sit down at the table and talk, or turn them into de facto occupiers, i.e. the evil monsters that the Palestinians always make the Israelis out to be.

What are these pre-conditions? Read on:

He added that Abbas also informed Kerry that he agreed to extend the deadline for the secretary of state’s mission until June 20, on condition that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners arrested before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Sheikh said the PA rejects the idea of a gradual release of the prisoners, insisting that they all be freed together.

Who are these mysterious prisoners that the Palestinians are so keen to see released? These are not mere political prisoners as some media outlets would have you believe. BBC Watch has a long list of links to the BBC whitewashing of the Palestinian prisoners’ crimes.

According to the narrative frequently and habitually promoted by the BBC in relation to the Middle East peace process, the main stumbling block to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the subject of building in towns and villages in Judea & Samaria. Typically, the BBC does not inform its audiences that the PA has quite a list of preconditions for returning to peace talks – one of which is the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, with particular focus on those imprisoned before the Oslo Accords were signed.

In the past few months we have seen numerous BBC reports focusing on Palestinian prisoners, most of which severely downplayed or even completely ignored the crimes committed by their subjects and included quotes from Palestinian officials and prisoner-focused NGOs such as Addameer. One BBC report in particular – from April 2nd 2013 – advanced the erroneous notion that the jailed Palestinians are “political prisoners” – a theme which is promoted by the Palestinian Authority, along with anti-Israel campaigners both in the region and abroad, and one which is being increasingly adopted by the mainstream media as a whole.

CAMERA has produced a comprehensive list of the pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, their crimes, and an in-depth survey of how the media suppresses information about these prisoners.

All too often, mainstream media outlets have whitewashed the terrorist acts and violent crimes of Palestinian prisoners by failing to mention the crimes at all or by falsely minimizing the degree of violence. In some cases, media outlets euphemistically refer to prisoners incarcerated since before 1994 as “political prisoners,” covering up the atrocities they carried out. CAMERA is the first to publish a detailed list (below), obtained from Israel’s Ministry of Justice, of 118 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, including their names and violent crimes.

The following is a sampling of some of the most egregious examples of the media’s whitewashing of violence on the part of Palestinian prisoners. A portion of them were subsequently corrected following communication from CAMERA or its affiliated sites, BBC Watch and CiF Watch.

Read it all and you’ll be shocked at how these criminals and terrorists are lionised by the Palestinian Authority. Then you will also gain some understanding into he difficulty facing Israel when trying to make peace with people who think these terrorists are heroes.

Another Palestinian precondition is a complete settlement freeze, and despite Palestinian claims to the contrary, there actually is a de facto freeze in place in Judea and Samaria:

Warning that a de facto freeze exists for housing tenders in West Bank settlements and Jewish east Jerusalem homes, settler leaders and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) met Tuesday night.

They are urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to allow Ariel’s office to authorize thousands of new housing tenders over the pre-1967 lines.

Netanyahu has refused to cede to the Palestinian demand to freeze West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.

But Netanyahu has quietly placed a temporary hold on issuing new housing tenders over the pre-1967 line as part of his understanding with Washington that he will not take active steps to thwart American efforts to re-kindle direct talks with the Palestinians.

“In spite of the prime minister’s repeated promises, including public pledges, tenders have not been published, including those promised more than a year ago,” said Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

However, all this freeze has done is harm Netanyahu domestically while gaining Israel nothing from the Palestinians or the internatinal community.

In the face of this Israeli compliance and Palestinian intransigence, what does Secretary of State John Kerry have the chutzpah to ask the American Jewish community? “Ma Nishtana?. We are running out of time“. In fact, the Ma Nishtana (What’s different?) should be thrown back at Kerry, for the truth is that nothing has changed. It’s the same old Palestinian intransigence, the same old pre-conditions and the same old blaming of Israel when their maximalist demands are not met. It’s also the same old claim that time is running out when in fact this situation has been going on for 20 years, since the Oslo Agreements were first signed in 1993.

In his first speech to an American Jewish organization since becoming secretary of state, John Kerry explained Monday why he’s dedicated so much of his first few months in office to breathing new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he admittedly described as “hardly a process at all.” “Ma nishtana (what is different) this time?” he asked in Hebrew, riffing on the first of the four questions asked at a traditional Passover Seder.

His answer: “We are running out of time and possibilities.”

The secretary said the US and Israel “may not get another chance at peace” and warned that the current Palestinian leadership won’t be around forever, especially if the West Bank economy “implodes or if the Palestinian security force fails.”

“What would replace them?” he asked. “The status quo is simply not sustainable. A stalemate today will not remain so tomorrow…Are we prepared to live with permanent conflict?”

Ticking off previous peace efforts – Oslo, Taba, Wye, Annapolis, etc – Kerry acknowledged the deep skepticism and cynicism in getting peace negotiations back on track.


Even though he said the conflict is “not the cause of problems in the Middle East, but rather an excuse for autocrats to shift blame away from themselves,” he said a lasting peace agreement could have far-reaching consequences that benefit Israel.

Well, duh (as teenagers would say). Of course a lasting peace agreement could have far-reaching consequences that benefit Israel. Does Kerry think that Israelis don’t know that? Why does he not address his comments and express his urgency to the Palestinians? Perhaps because the urgency is only in his mind, in order to bring some kind of signed piece of paper, however meaningless, while he is still in office?

Another American with the same dismissive opinion of Israelis sense of self-preservation is our favourite doofus, the pompous Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. This time, while he admits that the Middle East is literally a flaming mess, he still thinks that Israel should give up valuable land and tangible assets for the sake of the above meaningless “peace in our time” piece of paper with the Palestinians. In “Israel lives the Joseph story” he writes:

How would you like to be an Israeli strategist today? Now even Turkey is in turmoil as its people push back on their increasingly autocratic leader. I mean, there goes the neighborhood. The good news for Israel is that in the near term its near neighbors are too internally consumed to think about threatening it. In the long run, though, Israel faces two serious challenges that I’d dub the Stephen Hawking Story and the Joseph Story.


The Boston Globe said Hawking’s decision was “a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means.”

That was not Al-Ahram. That was The Boston Globe — a reminder that in this age of social networks, populist revolts and superempowered individuals, “international public opinion matters more not less,” notes the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi, the author of “Imagined Democracies.” And, in Israel’s case, it is creating a powerful surge of international opinion, particularly in Europe and on college campuses, that Israel is a pariah state because of its West Bank occupation. It is not a good trend for Israel. It makes it that much more dependent on America alone for support.


This global trend, though, is coinciding with a complete breakdown in Israel’s regional environment. Israel today is living a version of the Biblical “Joseph Story,” where Joseph endeared himself to the Pharaoh by interpreting his dreams as a warning that seven fat years would be followed by seven lean years and, therefore, Egypt needed to stock up on grain. In Israel’s case, it has enjoyed, relatively speaking, 40 fat years of stable governments around it.


With these iron-fisted leaders being toppled — and true, multisectarian democracies with effective governments yet to emerge in their place — Israel is potentially facing decades of unstable or no governments surrounding it. Only Jordan offers Israel a normal border. In the hinterlands beyond, Israel is looking at dysfunctional states that are either imploding (like Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Libya) or exploding (like Syria).

But here’s what’s worse: These iron-fisted leaders not only suppressed various political forces in their societies but also badly ignored their schools, environments, women’s empowerment and population explosions. Today, all these bills are coming due just when their governments are least able to handle them.

Therefore, the overarching theme for Israeli strategy in the coming years must be “resiliency” — how to maintain a relatively secure environment and thriving economy in a collapsing region.

So far, so reasonable, with the exception of my disagreement that it is the settlements that are causing Israel’s “pariah” status, rather than Israel’s existence per se as a Jewish state.

But then Friedman, with his doofus cap on his head once more, jumps to the completely wrong conclusion:

In my view, that makes resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more important than ever for three reasons: 1) to reverse the trend of international delegitimization closing in on Israel; 2) to disconnect Israel as much as possible from the regional conflicts around it; and 3) to offer a model.

There is no successful model of democratic governance in the Arab world at present — the Islamists are all failing.

In which case, how on earth does he expect Israel to make peace with anyone? What kind of peace would it be, how stable would it be and how long would it last?

But Israel, if it partnered with the current moderate Palestinian leadership

Which moderate Palestinian leadership would that be? The one that demands a full settlement freeze and the release of every single Palestinian prisoner arrested since Oslo days?

in the West Bank, has a chance to create a modern, economically thriving, democratic, secular state where Christians and Muslims would live side by side — next to Jews.

What kind of fantasy land does Friedman inhabit where such a Palestinian state would exist? Democratic? Secular? Christians living in safety with Muslims? And Jews would be allowed to live there too?

That would be a hugely valuable example, especially at a time when the Arab world lacks anything like it.

The Palestinians are not going to be the ones to bring the Good News to the Arab world.

And the world for the most part would not begrudge Israel keeping its forces on the Jordan River — as will be necessary given the instability beyond — if it ceded most of the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

That is the most ridiculous claim. Just like Israel was assured that the world would “allow” Israel the right to self-defence after withdrawing from Gaza, and then Israel was walloped with the Goldstone Report, there is no way the world, or even just the Arab world or the Palestinians alone, would allow Israel to keep its forces anywhere outside the 1949 Armistice Lines, which is where they want Israel to withdraw back to.

Elder of Ziyon has a masterful takedown of Friedman in his post “What’s Thomas Friedman smoking?

1) The delegitimization movement Friedman refers to is not interested in a peace agreement. They want the destruction of Israel. Their basic demands include the insistence that Israel be forced to accept millions of Arab faux-“refugees” and end the Jewish state. They already regard the PA as a sell-out for not restarting the intifada. This is a variation of the “if/then” fallacy that has been fashionable for decades, but is still around thanks to so-called “experts” like Friedman. In this case the fallacy is that the Israel-haters would be weakened by Israeli concessions, but in fact it is the opposite.

2) Friedman thinks that an Israel whose border is in constant threat of being taken over by Islamists would “disconnect” it from the regional conflicts around it? It would ensure that Israel is surrounded by them! Friedman’s bizarre assumption that a Palestinian Arab state would be inoculated from the chaos surrounding it has no basis in reality. Like so many other pseudo-experts on the region, Friedman cannot distinguish between his wishful thinking and the cold reality – in this case, that “Palestine” would be a peaceful, democratic, secular state, inoculated from the Islamist Spring.

Oh, and don’t forget Friedman’s other “if-then” fallacy here – that the world would allow Israel to keep the Jordan Valley as a buffer if only it would offer the Palestinian Arabs a state. Wasn’t that already offered and rejected? The result was nothing less than a six year-long war on Israeli civilians. Again, Friedman is stuck in the 1990s.

3) It takes an amazing amount of willful blindness to ignore Gaza’s Hamastan, to ignore the fact that there haven’t been elections for so long, to ignore the daily incitement in the PA media, to ignore the fact that the PA’s last two prime ministers that the West loved so much were not elected and have no support from the people, and to ignore the daily vitriol between Hamas and Fatah. Friedman’s eyes can shut tightly enough to allow an occasional “Sure, there are problems…” right before ignoring them.

John Kerry and Thomas Friedman are linked by “1990’s think” as the Elder calls it, by a wilful blindness to the realities of the Middle East today, and the dangerously wishful thinking that if only Israel would roll over and play nice, the Arabs would change their spots.

Peace will only come to the Middle East when the Palestinians become a genuinely democratic society, when they can accept a Jewish state in their midst, and when they stop teaching their children to hate Israelis and Jews. Until such time, Israel should not cede any tangible assets for the sake of a piece of paper saying Peace in our Time.


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