Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Atlantic Monthly has a cover story ( subscription required) entitled " In a Ruined Country: How Yasir Arafat Destroyed Palestine "that describes an all too common paradigm for Gap states - personalized rule of a " Big Man", multiplying networks of corruption, lack of transparency, democracy and rule of law and the threat of anarchic violence as a countervailing force to official misrule.

I seldom write on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts because the problem is presently insoluble. There can be no peace without a Palestinian state and there can be no Palestinian state until Palestinians accept that such a state at peace with Israel is an end in itself and not a mere waystation en route to Israel's discorporation. The almost sixty-year old fantasy of driving the Jews into the sea when all facts point to a power calculus that would make that impossible indicates that Palestinian nationalism is actually secondary or tertiary to anti-Zionism, anti-semitism, pan-Arabism, Islamism and material factional interests.

The PA does not possess a monopoly over the use of force required to deliver upon any agreement with the Israeli government and neither the gangsters who run the PA nor HAMAS nor pro-settler Israeli hawks see in any interest in seeing the PA become stronger and effectively accountable. It is a shame because a genuine peace would bring enormous economic benefits to Israelis and Arabs alike as capital and labor markets were allowed to normalize and joint regional development projects would become possible.

Arafat, who may have looted upwards of a billion dollars from his people is gone but in his place are would-be mini-Arafats, the East bloc trained, hard-eyed chieftains of Fatah and the religious extremists of HAMAS and Islamic Jihad. Peace requires moderates and ME politics has little room for them.
No. Peace requires a deal that both sides have agreed on, not moderates. It also requires a bit of shared pain.

The above is painfully and simple mindedly one sided. Israeli bad faith (largely of the Likoudnik maximalist variety) in areas such as continued land siezures in the West Bank, etc. are non-trivial components of continued weakness on the part of support for doing a deal on the Palestinian side.

In fact, a deal is possible, one merely has to have solid backing on it for the painful choices. At present the Palestinian deal deliverers are too weak (and not in a position to get stronger, catch 22) and the current Irseali deal deliverers are playing a dishonest game of pretend negotiations while angling for a siezure of ideal lands in the West Bank.

An analysis that focuses only on the Palestinians (or the Israelis to take the other sides excuse making) is naive, stupid, and utterly simple minded (when it is not merely dishonest pimping of agitprop). The above post is weak and limp.
Hi Col-

The first rule of negotiation is that you negotiate with the party that actually has the power to make decisions.

IMHO, though I am not an expert on Israel, the natural center of gravity for Israeli politics is Left-of-center. The Likudnik right is boosted artificially at the polls by maximalist-oriented terrorism from the Palestinian side - they effectively made Sharon, previously a wingnut, the PM. An electoral majority of Israelis are deliverable by an Israeli government for any peace deal that does not give up Jerusalem/access to The Wall entirely.

Now it suits the anti-Arab Sharonistas fine that the PA does not have a monopoly of force because this will delay a settlement indefinitely. Nonetheless that doesn't alter the equation that the PA can't deliver on any agreement. That's simply a fact and the only way they will be able to deliver is if Hamas and PIJ are part of a PA power-sharing negotiation team and/or are disarmed. That's the internal choice for Fatah - confrontation or collaboration with their domestic rivals.

If the Palestinians had the power to potentially push the Israelis into the sea they would have more strategic options and more leverage. They don't, so pursuing revanchist dreams are wildly unrealistic as is the idea that they can have a state, a peace agreement and a continuation of irregular warfare against Israel via private groups. A choice has to be made.

Once Palestinians get their internal act together enough to present a united and reasonable face to the world then the political onus will swiftly shift on to Israel to make realistic concessions and finalize an agreement.

Israel is, to say the least, unpopular in the world and it maintains its potent political support in the American Congress partly by having enemies who the American public perceives as being hell-bent on Israel's total destruction. Changing that perception would be a sensible part of a Palestinian strategy.
In a situ where the catch-22 is in no small part created by the other party - Israel helpfully smashes the PA from time to time and then "complains" they are too weak, rich that - one has to look to the party able to operate proactively (as PA is clearly not if one stops smoking cheap agitprop crack) to start working on creating a positive dynamic.

PA will not get stronger when Palestinians rightly doubt Israeli intentions in regards to negotiations, and were the society's internal capacity for organisation is entirely whacked. Having actually been to the territories, I don't see anything happening except violence - and that is not the Palestinians sole fault, it serves Likoudnikis well.

Chicken and egg, really. Chicken and egg, however, in this case the chicken has some capacity to create some eggs. If it wants. Piously proclaiming PA has to get its act together does nothing.
As I said, the current situation suits Sharon ( and those further Right) very well. He's playing his cards to keep things as they are.

It is supremely unrealistic however to expect him, the avowed opponent, to expedite conditions for a Palestinian state when the Palestinians themselves fail to organize themselves in a way that hurts rather than helps Sharon politically. Intifada II proved to be as much of a strategic disaster for the Palestinians as Intifada I. was a strategic victory.

Likewise, without some kind of new political cover, no U.S.president going to go out on a limb for the Palestinians after Clinton's experience. Both Bush I. and Clinton pressed the Israelis to make unprecedented concessions. I'm not, as you might imagine, Bill Clinton's number one supporter nor do I make a claim that he instituted actual " evenhandedness" but fairness requires admitting that he worked very hard and spent much political capital trying to broker a deal that would create a Palestinian state. We're not likely to see that kind of presidential initiative again without some new, major, change to make the risk look politically acceptable. That's simply reality.

Another reality: Longitudinally, demographically, economically, Israel cannot afford to hold the West Bank and Israel's own security requires an amicable separation and positive relationship with the Palestinians. Most of the non-nutty portion of Israel's leadership realize this very well but they are not in the driver's seat.
Then we don't disagree much, except that I would say rather than making a comment that places all the weight on the Palestinians (whose political incompetence runs so deep as to be astonishing), that a Pox on Both Houses would be better.


However, in re US efforts, as I recall Clinton and Bush I stuck their necks out. Hard to do, but if one wants things to move, the only way to pressure. Else same old bloody self defeating stalemate.

Bloody frustrating.
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