20 September '12..
Perhaps the most famous remark ever attributed to an Israeli official about Palestinian unwillingness to forge a lasting peace was made in 1973 by one time Foreign Minister Abba Eban. The Palestinians, he said, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity“.
Even then it was a sad statement of the obvious. Having rejected the United Nations partition plan of November 29, 1947, which was accepted by Israel and which would have provided for a two-state solution right at the inception of the Jewish state's existence, the Palestinians had largely put their faith in frightening the Israelis out of their state through guerilla warfare, outright terrorism and the prospect of invading Arab armies doing the job for them.
With today’s announcement from chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in mind, that last thought about other people doing the job for them is worth reflecting on. Erekat has added more detail to Palestinian plans for recognition of a Palestinian state on 1967 lines at the UN General Assembly later this month.
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that he believes the resolution would set “the terms of reference for Palestinian negotiations with Israel“. Erekat was quoted as saying that: “No-one is talking about cancelling the peace process“.
This is, frankly, delusional. For one thing, the Israelis are rightly suspicious of practically anything directed at them from the General Assembly or its affiliated institutions. The idea that they will merrily accept imposed conditions for peace talks from a body that it is heavily populated by people who dream of the country’s destruction is a non-starter.
Similarly, the 1967 lines are indefensible. They were not even borders; merely the armistice lines where soldiers rested up for the night at the cessation of hostilities following the Israeli War of Independence.
Even with the much vaunted land swaps that would accompany any real world scenario for a two-state solution, the notion that the 67 lines, rather than “defensible borders“, should form the basis for a peace agreement is ludicrous.
But let me return to the point referred to above. Why are the Palestinians so intent on getting someone else to set the terms of peace negotiations for them? Israel, after all, is practically begging them to sit down and talk directly, without preconditions. Why are they so desperate to avoid this?
Whatever Erekat says, the Palestinians, more than anybody, must know that efforts to set the terms of any negotiations through the UN make meaningful talks much less likely, if not impossible. So what is their game?
Depressingly, it all smacks of the same old rejectionist strategy that the Palestinians have adopted since refusing a two-state solution all those decades ago. If there’s an opportunity to be missed, they miss it. If there’s a diversion to be found, they find it.
These days (some of) their leaders do talk the talk about two states living side by side in peace and security. But when it comes down to it they never quite manage to walk the walk.
A devastated Bill Clinton was brought face to face with this reality after Yasser Arafat rejected, while Israel accepted, a two-state solution during his ill-fated efforts to broker a peace in 2000 and 2001.
There’s always a reason to say “no“; always a way of avoiding the business of sitting down to meaningful talks; always some pretext for not bringing this conflict to a close.
Now why could that be, one wonders...?
Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of @CommentatorIntl. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1