Their ever increasing demands

By Ted Belman

In Prof Barry Rubin’s latest article Let’s Make a Deal, he lists all the parties who don’t want to make a deal and suggests why. His criteria in the first instance is that their ever increasing demands says it all.

[..] “Certainly not Hamas. It is unwilling to make more than the most minor rhetorical cosmetic changes. If the Gaza Strip is suffering through sanctions, there is plenty of money for its gunmen and propaganda outlets. It would rather wait for decades and the hope of destroying Israel.

Certainly not the Palestinian Authority. With Fatah potentially on its deathbed, it goes on with all the old corruption, incompetence and demands. Fatah is happy to take foreign aid, diplomatic support and prisoners released by Israel. But Fatah is quite happy to live with “occupation,” then make a deal and get an independent state.”

Contrast this with PM Olmert firm on working with PA leadership. His reasons are laughable.

The situation is different than in the past,” Olmert said. “For the first time, there is Palestinian leadership that wants to reach peace based on two states living side by side in security, and where Israel will be a Jewish state,” Olmert said.

He said that in the past, there had been no certainty in Jerusalem that what the Palestinian leadership said was what it meant. Now, he said, Abbas and Fayad genuinely want peace, but the question is whether they can implement agreements.

Olmert said that after holding a series of talks with Abbas, he was convinced that he was serious about wanting peace with Israel.

He is “consistent and systematic,” Olmert said of Abbas. “He is against terrorism and is ready for serious dialogue with Israel.” [..]

In light of the different leadership, Olmert said, it is necessary to “create a political horizon.” However, he said, Israel differentiated between the “talking stage” and the “implementing stage.”

But he is happy to assure us

“Israel will not carry out anything on the ground until the other side passes the test of implementing what it needs to,” Olmert said.

And why is he doing this?

…the prime minister said that he had decided to move forward with the current PA leadership because there were more dangers for Israel in continuing the status quo, than in seeing the diplomatic process through with the moderate PA leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

On all accounts, he is grievously wrong. But I want to point out the strategy of providing a “horizon” (This is what we will give you) as an inducement to the “implementing stage” is totally wrong headed as Rubin points out.

Was there not a horizon set out in the Roadmap to be approached in phases as the Arabs met their commitments? It obviously didn’t work. So now, the spin goes, it is not enough to say that all matters are to be negotiated but Israel must concede everything demanded “in the talking stage” before the “implementing stage” can begin. Put another way when an agreement entered into doesn’t work because one side breaches it, the agreement must be amended to do away with the breach.

To commit in advance is utter folly. Even though the implementing stage doesn’t proceed as it won’t, Israel’s commitment in the “talking stage”, will be the starting point or a new process whereby Israel will be forced to give more. After all, “After that meeting, at which time a joint declaration would be endorsed, negotiations would begin”, he said.

Another con. The agreement in principal is what counts, the negotiations thereafter relate to insignificant details such as who is to take out the garbage.

Now that we are in the “taking stage”, why is Israel not demanding a political horizon for Israel namely that Abbas relinquish “the right of return”. Why is not a commitment demanded in this stage for an end of conflict agreement in which the Arab League joins in? Why indeed. So the latter issue is dropped, though it was allegedly the foundation of the Saudi Plan though in reality only a hudna was offered. You know, “normalization”. All Olmert is hoping to get is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. This is another way of saying that Israel will accept some refugees but only to a point.

A few weeks ago the Cabinet announced to great fanfare, its decision to declare Gaza, “a hostile entity”. And nothing happened. All that sound and fury signifying nothing.

Back to Barry Rubin.

Let’s make it clear: The West is more concerned over the suffering of Arabs than the Arabs’ own governments or leaders. The West is desperate to get the Palestinians a state, while both Hamas and Fatah want only an independent country on their own terms, no matter how many dead bodies and material suffering that requires. Hamas wants total victory and Israel’s eradication; most of Fatah merely wants an agreement to move that dream closer to reality.

So why is the West ignoring this?

Some are eager to show their willingness to make a deal in order to keep their allies happy. Thus, Israel’s government has to keep the US and Europe satisfied that it is doing its best. The US government wants to show the Europeans, Arab states and its own voting public that it is trying to conciliate enemies and resolve conflicts.

THEN THERE is the fact that much of the West is genuinely afraid of war and violence. It has more to lose, after all. And it often does not understand extremism or the role ideology plays, thinking that soft words turn away wrath and you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

It expects that the militants can be bought off with money, power or happiness (material gain).

It assumes that the Palestinian leadership will be grateful if it is given a state, when it wants to be given all of Israel; that Iran merely need feel secure from US power, when it wants to throw America out of the region; that the Iraqi insurgents want more of a voice for the Sunni minority, when they want to chop the head off the Shi’ite majority; or that Syria just wants the Golan Heights when it desires Lebanon enslaved and Israel destroyed. Or that the Muslim Brotherhood wants a reformed democratic state when it prays for an Islamist theocracy.

Meet those demands, Mr. Diplomat.

THERE IS greed as well, all the cash made from commerce. Sometimes, too, there is a sense of being on the same side as the supposed “enemy,” that is, because they hate their own cultures and countries, the Americans, or the Jews.

Instead, all the forces listed above just demand more and more without delivering on their own promises until even the biggest suckers among Western governments and politicians learn the lesson. (OK, that’s being over-optimistic. Many never do learn, but at least they give up for a while.) So this partly brilliant strategy brings little return.

Yet there are very good reasons why Western efforts at engagement are never followed by marriage, and why endless confidence-building measures, peace plans, aid packages, summit conferences, apologies and all the rest keep failing.

October 8, 2007 | Comments Off on Their ever increasing demands

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