Once again, my man Daniel Levy, former Israeli peace negotiator, nails the problem with Bush’s peace pantomime involving Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert negotiating a “wouldn’t it be nice” agreement. Daniel writes:
A respected Palestinian analyst, Hussein Agha, commented to me recently that “Israel cannot make peace with Abbas for one simple reason – Israel is not at war with Abbas.” The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have declared themselves to be partners, not adversaries.
The Palestinian Authority security forces under Abbas’s authority present no military threat to Israel; rather they operate according to limitations (geographic, hours of deployment, etc.) defined by Israel. The Fatah-affiliated militias that do continue to target Israel and Israelis do so against the instructions of Abbas – a fact recognized by Israel.
Abbas can vanquish neither these forces nor Hamas (and neither can the Israeli Defense Forces). The Israeli army operating in the West Bank provides security to Israelis, primarily settlers, but also to the PA regime, thereby sustaining it in power.
Abbas’s repudiation of violence is courageous, and his determination to pursue negotiations even while settlements expand and checkpoints flourish is sincere, even touching.
All this might be laudable, but it renders the existing peace talks almost inconsequential. For while hostilities have ceased between the PA and Israel and peace papers are drafted, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis continues.
And as Daniel warns, if the pursuit of peace is associated with this meaningless charade, then the consequence is that the pursuit of peace itself is discredited. That, of course, is the singular achievement of the Bush Administration, whose key Middle East advisers, it must be said, always opposed the idea of Israel ceding land for peace…