Monday, January 24, 2011

Agha And Malley On The Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

Hussein Agha and Robert Malley’s essay “Who’s Afraid of the Palestinians?” in The New York Review of Books accounts for the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For Israelis, the Palestinian threat is currently low; the conflict affects them more through international delegitimization. For the Palestinians, armed struggle and nonviolent options have not materially affected the situation on the ground. The authors’ analysis leads to their pessimism:

For seventeen years, the peace process has been fueled by illusions. Bilateral negotiations have cultivated the pretense that Israelis and Palestinians are equal parties when they are not. US involvement has fed Palestinian delusions and shielded Israel. The international community’s treatment of the PA as a quasi state has not brought Palestinians closer to statehood. It has deceived Palestinians about what to expect from the world and corrupted their politics. Throwing money at the Palestinians has not ended the occupation but made it more palatable: it has reduced Israeli costs and created a Palestinian culture of dependency, diverting Palestinian energy from addressing their predicament to financing it. The illusions helped perpetuate the status quo.

This probably is not what the world had in mind when Obama took office. It certainly is not what the Palestinians believed history had in store. But it won’t get any better anytime soon.

Outstanding Israeli historian Tom Segev shares this pessimism, contending that the two sides are currently too far apart and should focus on conflict management. Today’s leak of “The Palestine Papers” by The Guardian and Al Jazeera will strengthen the perception of Palestinian Authority weakness in negotiations with Israel. This perception will benefit only Hamas, which runs Gaza and has no interest in a negotiated settlement.

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