It seems that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is all but over, whether with normalization or without. Mahmoud Abbas’s constant upping of the ante, with ever-increasing demands of Israel, made sure of that. So now that it’s all over bar the shouting, what next?
Well, first of all, Abbas was threatening to dissolve the PA and the Oslo Accords:
According to Palestinian sources cited by Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday, Abbas and top PA officials are considering the drastic move, which would involve canceling the 1993 Oslo Accords and announcing that the Palestinian Authority is a “government under occupation” without full sovereignty, which would technically move full responsibility for the Palestinians, in the West Bank at least, to Israel.
The threat, which has reportedly been passed on to Israel, would also disband and abolish PA security forces operating in the West Bank, theoretically opening the way for expanded Palestinian unrest against Israeli forces. The move could also prompt a surge in international legal and diplomatic action against Israel.
Unfortunately for the histrionic Abbas, his dramatic pronouncement was greeted with derision by Israel, with Naftali Bennett saying to Abbas: Bring it on:
“If he wants to go, we won’t stop him,” the minister said. “The Jewish people do not negotiate with a gun held against their temple.”
I’m sure most Israelis echo Bennett’s sentiments.
The Elder of Ziyon pours more cold water on Abbas’s threat with a timely reminder of the many times in the past that Abbas has made this exact same threat:
Officials in the Israeli administration have been informed of the dramatic threat, according to Palestinian sources. Dramatic! Unprecedented!
Reporters that don’t know recent history!
If diplomatic stagnation continues after the Israeli election and construction in the settlements doesn’t stop, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will dismantle the PA and return responsibility for the West Bank to the Israeli government, he told Haaretz in an interview on Thursday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA) if Israel does not stop building settlements on occupied Palestinian land, he told Palestinian television before heading to Turkey and Athens.
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has threatened to walk out on the struggling peace process between Palestine and Israel.
Read the rest. It goes all the way back to 2007!
Avi Issacharoff in the Times of Israel similarly notes how these threats have become a recurrent ritual:
At least three Palestinian threats have become a recurrent ritual, repeating themselves every few months: (1) the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas from the presidency of the Palestinian Authority; (2) the resignation of top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat from his post (a step he has already taken countless times throughout his illustrious career, and yet there he remains); and (3) the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority.
So first it should be made clear: A scenario in which the Palestinian Authority is dissolved is possible, but its probability is low, very low. The discussion in recent days over the possibility of the PA being dismantled has been held mainly in the Israeli media, with little to no presence in the discourse of the Palestinian media and among PA leaders.
One of the best articles I’ve read about the non-existent peace process is by Jonathan Spyer at the Gloria Center who writes: The peace process is dead. Let it lie down. Here are some excerpts:
The failure of this initiative was obvious from the beginning. To everyone except, apparently, Kerry himself. This reality lent an element of low farce to the entire proceedings.
By now, it should really be obvious to any serious observer that there is no chance that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process will produce a comprehensive peace between the two sides.
There are two core reasons for this. One of them is of long-standing, the other is a development of the last decade.
The first reason is because the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is simply not interested in exchanging its historic goal of reversing the verdict of 1948 for the establishment of a small Palestinian state in the West Bank.
As to why Fatah cleaves to this position. On the more superficial level, mainstream Palestinian nationalism considers that the ‘imposition’ of Jewish sovereignty over part of former British Mandate Palestine (not ‘historic Palestine’, an entity that never existed) constitutes a crime of such horror and magnitude that it can never be accepted.
On a deeper level, this unusual refusal to compromise with reality derives from the movement’s Islamic roots (the very name ‘Fatah’ derives from a Koranic term meaning ‘Islamic conquest), which make it unimaginable that land once possessed by Muslims or Arabs can be accepted as having passed to another sovereignty. This process is experienced as particularly humiliating when the other sovereignty in question is that of a traditionally despised people, the Jews, rather than some mighty foreign empire.
Thus far, so obvious.
The second, newer development, however, deserves closer attention.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process also has no chance of success because there is no authoritative Palestinian Arab partner to the talks. Why not?
The first and obvious reason for this is because there is no longer a single, authoritative Palestinian national leadership.
Arafat died in 2004. In 2007, the Palestinian movement split in two, with control of the Gaza Strip passing to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today, Hamas constitutes the more vigorous and formidable element in Palestinian nationalism. It presides over a small, sovereign Palestinian area. And of course, it opposes the negotiations and remains openly committed to the goal of destroying Israel.
There is no prospect of Palestinian re-unification in the foreseeable future (though Fatah spokesmen are forever proclaiming that it is just around the corner).
But there is a deeper and more historic aspect to this disunity. The division in Palestinian nationalism appears to be a return to the normal state of affairs, in which the Arab population of the area west and east of the Jordan River is divided into a variety of groups, with widely varying interests and agendas.
Palestinian identity, it turns out, like the neighboring Syrian and Iraqi and Lebanese identities, turns out to be a far more flimsy and contingent thing than its partisans and spokesmen have claimed.
The Israeli Arabs, though they continue to elect nationalist and Islamist representatives to the Knesset, react with horror to the prospect of exchanging their citizenship of the Jewish state for that of a putative Palestinian sovereignty.
This renders absurd the claim of membership in a broader Palestinian identity made by the elected leaders of these Israeli citizens.
Spyer’s conclusions are depressingly familiar however:
Many Palestinians and the many western supporters of the Palestinian cause are convinced that the gradual international delegitimization of Israel is the key to final strategic victory over the Jewish state and the reversal of the verdict of 1948. This is an illusion. But it will need to work itself through, like the illusions that preceded it.
When it has, sadly, it is likely to be replaced by a new illusion. Thus the reckoning with the reality of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty will continue to be avoided, and the Palestinian politics of subsidized fantasy will continue.
Until the Palestinians stop being funded by over-generous NGOs and foreign aid agencies, and are thus forced to grow up and face reality, peace will never come to the Middle East.