The United States Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason D. Greenblatt, is still fairly new to that special world known as Middle East diplomacy.
This was apparent earlier this week when he commented on the Palestinians’ stated refusal to participate in the Bahrain conference, the first phase of the Trump administration’s peace plan.
“By encouraging Palestinians to reject the workshop, the PA is shamefully trying to block their path toward a better future,” said Greenblatt. “History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today.”
Greenblatt called it shameful. He’s right. But can it be that he has yet to appreciate the fact that, pertaining to the Palestinian leaders, “shame” is not a relevant word?
Betrayal of their own people’s best interests has never deterred them. What is shameful to others is de rigueur to Mahmoud Abbas.
Shame did not stop his predecessor Yasser Arafat from rejecting prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David and then Taba in 2001. Arafat could have had 95 percent of Yehudah and Shomron, all of Gaza, a state with its capital in Yerushalayim including control of Har HaBayis (excluding the Kosel), and a $30 billion compensation package for the 1948 refugees.
At the time, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia exhorted the PLO leader to “take this deal,” asking, “Could you ever get a better one?” And, reportedly furious with Arafat, he warned him that rejection of the opportunity would be “not only a tragedy but a crime.”
But that is what Arafat did, insisting that he would never give up on the right of four million Palestinians to live in Israel.
President Bill Clinton, most of the negotiators, and even some of the European Union, also blamed Arafat for the collapse of negotiations. As has been pointed out, Arafat did not even make a counterproposal to Barak, revealing that good-faith bargaining was simply not part of his worldview.
In 2008, Abbas similarly rejected generous offers from then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the ultimate sticking point being that Israel would accept only a limited number of refugees.
All the talk about borders is meaningless next to the issue of refugees. While Israel can compromise on borders to some extent, to agree to a massive influx of Palestinians would be tantamount to national suicide.
In the case of Bahrain, rejectionism is rationalized by saying that you can’t talk about money before politics (which hasn’t stopped the PA from panhandling at the EU to replace U.S. financial support, or complaining that Israel has deducted tax transfers against their terror stipends). Assurances that the political issues will of course be addressed as well fall on deaf ears.
As if the world will somehow forget about the question of statehood if the immediate crisis in the Palestinian economy is addressed in a systematic way. No, let the whole society go to pieces, let chaos ensue and terrorism drag on ad infinitum, as long as propaganda for Palestinian statehood carries on.
Lately, the Palestinian Authority has turned to the EU and Russia for help. They, supposedly, will be honest brokers, unlike the United States, with no agenda of their own, with only peace, justice and regional harmony at heart.
What that really means is that they know they can expect a more sympathetic approach from those quarters. The EU mouths peaens of praise for the two-state solution while it blames Israel for not surrendering to impossible Palestinian demands.
Most recently, the Palestinian Authority has taken to courting Russia, hoping that Putin would intercede on their behalf by pressuring Israel to reinstate tax monies withheld, corresponding to the amount doled out to imprisoned terrorists and their families. Abbas has refused to accept any of the tax transfers, in protest against the deductions. Again, the attitude is, let the Palestinian people suffer, as long as Abbas can make a show of defiance that helps him solidify his political base.
So he appeals to Russia, the good neighbor that brings the Iranian Revolutionary Guard into Syria and sells advanced missile systems to Syria and Turkey. Russia, which has for generations sought to expand its power base into the Mideast. It will help bring peace.
The bottom line is that Palestinian leaders don’t care about the welfare of their people; they don’t want a peaceful settlement. What they want is a single state, in which the Palestinians are the majority and the Jews are sooner or later driven into the sea, chas v’shalom.
Civilized people who truly desire peace recognize the need at times to compromise to achieve it. But the Palestinian leadership is clearly cut from a different cloth.