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The war Israelis and Palestinians plan
In New York for a UN conference, Omar Yussef uncovers an asssassination plot. The suspect: his own son. Omar's most personal investigation so far.

JERUSALEM — There’s an old Arab aphorism: “A man with a plan takes action; a man with two plans gets confused.” Apply that to the Israelis and to the Palestinians, and the nonsensical sequence of recent events in the Middle East starts to fall into a comprehensible pattern.

It’s not a pleasant pattern, because it leads to war.

First, before we get to the fireworks, let’s recap some of the nonsense.

The Palestinians refused to talk to the Israelis from December 2008, when a relatively centrist Israeli government made a peace offer the Palestinians rejected. Since then, small economic reforms and big U.S. security aid have made life in the West Bank fairly free of violence. Better, for sure, than life in Gaza, which is still a mess more than a year after the Hamas-Israel war there.

Israelis elected a center-right parliament early last year, and Benjamin Netanyahu formed a rightist cabinet. He refused to halt building in Israel’s West Bank settlements, as President Barack Obama demanded. Even when forced by Washington to put a transparently fake freeze on construction he declined to include East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians wouldn’t restart direct peace talks until there was a freeze on the Israeli neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. So the Americans eventually persuaded them to have indirect talks. Without much enthusiasm, the Palestinians agreed.

Why no enthusiasm? Leading Palestinians, including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, had already started to talk about a new failed round of talks leading quite simply to a “one-state solution.” That means, no division of the land, just a single state in what’s now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. One adult, one vote. Soon enough, of course, that means no Jewish majority and the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Meanwhile, Israel largely escaped the financial crisis of the last two years and its citizens spend little time fretting about the Palestinians. In Tel Aviv, the discovery of old bones by workers building an underground emergency room for a hospital led last month to an attempt by ultra-religious politicians to block the construction, and protests by locals who cried out against religious coercion.

No such mass protests against continued building in the settlements. That proceeds, even to the extent that during the last month announcements of new construction in East Jerusalem have caused a major crisis in relations with Washington. In one case, the planned building of a mere 20 apartments in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem forced Obama to take time out of his undoubtedly busy day to discuss it with Netanyahu.

There’s more nonsense, but let this much suffice for now.

Back to the Arab aphorism. Who has a plan, and who’s confused?

It’s clear that most Israelis and most Palestinians are living in denial — a kind of confusion, because it takes the illusion of current calm for a sustainable and welcome period of peace.

Israelis know the settlements can’t go alongside a two-state solution, but they don’t choose one or the other.

Palestinians know that the way to stop the settlements eating up the hilltops around their towns is to strike a deal now and rule their own state, but they won’t do it so long as life is relatively good and the international pressure is all on Israel. Leaders of Fatah and Hamas have called for a “third intifada” several times in the last four months — not for renewed talks, only for renewed violence. But a mere handful of kids came out to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails.

With no sense of urgency on either side, Western diplomats shake their heads and try to nudge the two nations to the negotiating table. It’s time to realize that neither side wants talks.

While most Israelis live in denial, a sizeable minority pushes for more building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They’re not building so that they can later give up that land and see all the money they’ve pumped into their real estate wasted. The purpose is to make the West Bank inseparable from Israel. To kill the two-state solution.

In that scenario, either the Palestinians agree to be second-class inhabitants of the area, or they leave.

On the Palestinian side, negotiations seem unlikely to lead to the satisfaction of every single demand. So the one-state solution starts to look good to them, too. However, second-class citizenship isn’t an option, and neither is leaving.

That’s the collision course Western diplomats refuse to countenance. When envoys talk about getting the “peace process on track,” it sounds good. But that process has been trucking along since the early 1990s. Peace has been getting further away. The “process” allows for a sense of activity, while all the time events — settlement construction, terror attacks — make it harder to draw lines on a map and make the populations secure.

It’s time to figure out a new diplomatic strategy to deal with the Israelis and Palestinians. One that’s based on the assumption that, in the longterm, they’re expecting war.

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Not negotiating since 2008????

The sober view is indeed a reminder of the impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But it is inaccurate to state that the Palestinians stopped negotiating in 2008 because of anything Israel did. The Palestinians never "negotiated." Whenever their full terms were not accepted they walked away from repeated offers, never presenting counter-offers.

The reason? No offer that includes the existence of the state of Israel has ever been accepted to them, hence, no negotiation.

Here is a recent article from www.ZOA.org:
April 13, 2010


A new poll of Palestinians opinion in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has found that more than two-thirds of Palestinians – 67% – reject the creation of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 armistice lines with some land exchange if it means an end of all claims against Israel, whereas only 28% of Palestinians would accept such a solution. The An-Najah National University Public Opinion Poll, conducted April 8-10, 2010, also found that more than three-quarters of Palestinians – 77% – seek to deprive Israel of its capital city, rejecting the idea of Jerusalem serving as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state, whereas only 21% accept this proposal.
The An-Najah poll also found that 71% of Palestinians support a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, while only 25% reject this approach; that Palestinians support Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA)'s refusal to negotiate with Israel until it stops Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem by 79% to 19% and reject further negotiations if Jewish construction continues by an overwhelming 83% to 14% (An-Najah National University Public Opinion Poll, 8-10 April 2010).
These results are consistent with several earlier polls that also indicated rejection of a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel:
· February 2007: 75% of Palestinian Arabs do not think that Israel has a right to exist; 70% of Palestinian Arabs support a one-state solution in which Jews would be a minority, not a two-state solution with a Palestinian Arab state living peacefully alongside Israel (Near East Consulting (NEC) poll, February 12-15, 2007, `NEC 12-15 February Poll: 75% of Palestinians do not think that Israel has the right to exist,' Independent Media Review Analysis, February 16, 2007).
· February 2006: 83.3% of the Palestinian Arabs oppose dropping the legally and morally baseless so-called 'right of return' of refugees and their millions of descendants to Israel and reject substitute solutions to the refugee issue (Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) poll, February 16-20, 2006).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, "It is often said that Palestinians no longer embrace a program for eliminating Israel, but merely wish to live in their own independent state within the territories Israel captured in 1967. As a result, many conclude that Israel has an obligation to negotiate a peaceful outcome with Palestinians. This latest poll exposes the groundlessness of these assumptions: more than two-thirds of Palestinians plainly reject a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.
"While some polls can be found to support the contention that a majority of Palestinians favor the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, on closer inspection, it always emerges that only a minority of Palestinians favor a Palestinian state, once established, actually continuing to live in peace alongside Israel.
"Put simply, Palestinians unfortunately and tragically still reject the legitimacy and permanence of the Jewish state of Israel and continue to embrace Israel's elimination."

Comment Bubble Tip

War is inevitable

Matt's conclusions are right on. So is Talia's comment. Maybe the loser in the next war will have less unreal expectations.