On becoming pro-palestinian

February 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

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There’s lots of stuff going around about the recent leaked memos of the negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis. Much is being made of the Palestinian authority betraying their mandate to their electorate by behaving in a humiliating manner and offering far too much to the Israelis (eg. right of return, settlements, etc.)

The far bigger issue, though, is Israel’s behaviour: after being offered so much, why did they choose to walk away instead?

The most charitable reading on Israel’s behaviour is that it knew the Palestinian negotiators couldn’t possibly keep the Palestinians ‘on side’ for the settlement being proposed. Talking shop without any intent to execute the outrageous offers being made perhaps had some advantages: keeping the PA docile, or presenting a good international image.

Even then, things don’t add up. Even if we grant Israel refused a settlement on the grounds that it was too outrageously generous to be supported by the Palestinians, they could have simply short-circuited the Palestinian negotiators and worked out by themselves what the Palestinians would consider a minimally acceptable deal and offer that instead.

The more malicious reading is that Israel has no interest in the peace process. Far from being intransigent, the PA was desperate to make any sort of deal, yet all such offers were rebuffed. Either no settlement (even the capitulation of the PA negotiation) would be good enough, or Israel simply calculated that its creeping annexation and subjugation of the occupied territories will proceed to give them far more than the Palestinians, no matter how spineless, would be willing to give. Perhaps the hope is that that periodic gestures of reconciliation and negotiation will conceal this program and limit international backlash.

I know little about the middle east, and I try not to pass judgment on matters that appear complicated without doing my homework. I worried that my colleagues on the left jumped in too quickly onto what was a difficult situation. But stuff like this is sufficiently damning to make me think they were right all along. The malicious reading is far better fit for Israel’s (leaked) behaviour, and this cascades to explain behaviour elsewhere. Free Palestine.


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