Hamas sent a greeting card to the quintet of leaders meeting in Washington, D.C., this week to initiate negotiations about a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In a well-planned ambush, they killed four Israeli civilians near the city of Hebron, two men and two women (one nine months pregnant), creating seven orphans. The murderers escaped, and may perhaps have videotaped the atrocity.
In Gaza that evening, 3,000 celebrants clogged the streets, waving flags, setting bonfires, passing out candy, and carrying their children on their shoulders. If there is videotape, it will presumably permit the revelers to relive the pleasure, even as the video of Daniel Pearl's beheading has circulated on the Internet.
While the Palestinian Authority did condemn the attack, it did so in mincing terms. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad disapproved, he said, because "the operation went against Palestinian interests." It would be difficult for a leader of the "moderate" (that word is always attached) PA to condemn such attacks as, say, immoral or despicable, as the Palestinian Authority itself (formerly the PLO/Fatah) was conceived in violence and continues to honor its spirit.
In the course of the past few months, the PA has named a square and a children's summer camp in honor of a terrorist who murdered 37 Israeli civilians on a bus, and provided a hero's funeral to Amin al-Hindi, one of the planners of the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The official PA newspaper described al-Hindi as "one of the stars ... who sparkled at the sports stadium in Munich." Both Mahmoud Abbas and Fayyad attended the funeral.
These realities, reflecting as they do the unreadiness of the Palestinian people for peace with Israel, have been and will continue to be ignored by the Obama administration, the so-called international community, and most journalists. Instead, world leaders, very much including President Obama, speak of borders, confidence-building measures, and opportunities for peace, as if the problem were one of details. This thoroughly misconceives the nature of the dispute. An Israeli saying (now decades old) captured the essence: If the Palestinians were disarmed tomorrow, there would be no conflict. If the Israelis were disarmed tomorrow, there would be no Israel.
With whom would Israel be making binding agreements? Since a bitter civil conflict in 2007, Palestinian society has been divided. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, and the PA controls the West Bank. Just last month, the Palestinian Authority canceled scheduled municipal elections for fear that Hamas might again triumph at the polls as they did in 2006. Hamas and Fatah thugs continue to target and assassinate one another. By standing up the wobbly Abbas and perhaps even signing a treaty with him, the Obama administration may imagine that they can strengthen him. But this is a figure so unsure of his current standing with his people - and this is before making any unpopular concessions - that he canceled elections.
Abbas' weakness in this regard is not so much a personal failing as an inheritance. The entire Arab world (and Iran) has conspired to embitter and enrage the Palestinian people in perpetuity, encouraging maximalist demands and enshrining bloodshed and frenzied hatred.
Though Abbas has shaken hands all around in Washington, D.C., the incitement at home continues. A year ago, at Fatah's general congress in Bethlehem, the delegates reaffirmed their longstanding commitment to "armed struggle" as "a strategy, not a tactic ... This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated."
Just this week, the Palestinian Authority's minister for prisoners affairs presented an award called the Shield of Resoluteness and Giving to Um Yousuf Abu Hamid. Her accomplishment? Four of her sons are serving long sentences in Israeli prisons for committing terrorist attacks. Handing her the plaque, the minister intoned, "The Palestinian mother is a central partner in the struggle, by virtue of what she has given and continues to give. It is she who gave birth to the fighters, and she deserves that we bow to her in salute and in honor."
A Palestinian children's television program instructs its viewers that all Israeli cities - including Haifa, Lod, Ramle, and Acre -- are "occupied Palestinian" cities. Another show aimed at children, which often dispenses advice like "drink your milk" and "obey your parents," also advised a young viewer named Saraa that "all Jews must be erased from our land ... "We want to slaughter them, Saraa, so they will be expelled from our land ... we'll have to (do it) by slaughter."
This latest iteration of Israeli/Palestinian peace talks midwived by the U.S. is doomed just as all of its predecessors were - because it is based on a fallacy and a stubborn refusal to face the truth about Palestinian society.
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