At the risk of repeating the point I made in my last blog (which now seems almost prophetic!) President Obama & his sidekick John Kerry are pushing very hard to bring Israel & the Palestinians to the table. The only outcome I can see from this is bloodshed - particularly Israeli civilian bloodshed - the fact that Obama does not recognize this danger is simply a continuation of his astounding failure over past 5 years to understand the Arab & Islamic world - this failing has caused chaos in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Authority have excellent reasons for not wanting to negotiate at this time - indeed they really cannot go forward in good faith, knowing full well they do not carry the Palestinian people with them and that they are unable to make any guarantees that Israel needs. The Palestinian people are split between the PLO / Fatah Palestinian Authority and Iranian backed Islamists such as Hamas who will never accept any agreement that leaves Jews in Israel; The Arab world is in turmoil, and therefore no regional agreement can be produced, which is vital for any agreement to hold and for a Palestinian state to succeed (its failure would be a disaster for Israel as well as the Palestinians); there are powerful elements in the Arab & wider Islamic world that have no interest in seeing an end to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, most obviously Iran. Lets not ignore the all pervasive antisemitism that affects Arab thinking - it is an almost medieval hatred as Prof Robert Wistrich explained to me in this interview a couple of years ago, that reaches incredible levels within the palestinian world, thanks to the institutional incitement every Palestinian is taught from birth. I've mentioned the Palestinian refugees in several posts - millions of people maintained as stateless generational refugees in countries they, their parents and grandparents were born in - the minute a Palestinian state is declared, we can expect the majority of these refugees to ethnically cleansed - oh, it'll be called "right of return" but it will be the sending of millions of people to a tiny poor newly founded state in a land they have no familiarity with. It will crush Palestine, and both Fatah & Hamas know this...they just can't say it!
So what happens if the Palestinians are placed in the impossible position of having to negotiate by Obama & Kerry? If their standard tactic of producing unacceptable preconditions are trumped by Israel's gestures (such as releasing Palestinian terrorist prisoners merely to get its enemies to talk) history has shown clearly that backing the Palestinians a corner of talks or agreement they don't want - but can't say they don't want - leads to violence. This was how Arafat dealt with the aftermath of Camp David (when then Israeli PM Barak offered him more than anyone ever expected) - Arafat's reaction has a name - the Second Intifada - which the Mitchell Report (the investigatory committee set up to look into the causes behind the breakdown in the peace process), the government of Israel asserted that:
the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the "widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse." In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at "provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative."
So at a time when the Mid East is in turmoil, when the Palestinians are deeply divided and their leaders are suffering unprecedented unpopularity and when external influences have a vested interest in the Israeli conflict continuing, how can President Obama consider it appropriate to place the Palestinians under this pressure to negotiate with Israel ? It is doomed from the start and that means people - mostly Israelis & primarily women and children - will die - There are times to push and times to back off - Mr Obama...Mr. Kerry BACK OFF BEFORE MORE MIDDLE EAST RESIDENTS ARE HURT!