September 2nd Peace Talks: A Primer

Abigail Cable
September 2nd Peace Talks: A Primer
August 24, 2010

With direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders set to begin on September 2nd, I am cautiously optimistic.  The talks are a welcome step in the right direction, but it’s naive to assume that they will result in a final status solution.  Most Israelis are willing to make concessions for long-standing peace; however, history has repeatedly shown that the Palestinian leadership is not committed to a peaceful two-state solution.  Israelis are justifiably reluctant to give up land without an assurance of real and lasting peace.

The West Bank is governed by the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority, led by president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.  But even if the PA is truly committed to a two-state solution — which I’m not convinced it is — Hamas’ control of Gaza makes this almost impossible.  As long as Gaza is governed by an oppressive regime dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, Israel is unlikely to cede land in the West Bank. Since peace with Hamas is unattainable, withdrawing from the West Bank would result in peace only on Israel’s eastern border. Israel simply has more to lose than gain by withdrawing from the West Bank.

Hamas’ control of Gaza cripples the peace process, but even more troubling is the existential threat posed by Iran.  Hamas may want to destroy Israel, but Iran is frighteningly close to actually having the means to do so.  Understandably, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration is chiefly concerned with dealing with Iran.  The Iranian threat helps put the conflict in perspective: while achieving a two-state solution with the Palestinians is the ultimate goal, there can be no two-state solution if there is no state of Israel.  And as long as the Iranian threat looms, negotiating a final status agreement with the Palestinians isn’t the imminent necessity.

There are some who believe Iran is either bluffing, or simply not capable of carrying out a nuclear attack.  This is absurd.  As September 11th and the Second Intifada indisputably prove, there exists large numbers of radical Islamists whose ultimate goal is murdering their ideological enemies.  Terrorists don’t care that Israel is capable of striking back; the risk of retaliation is irrelevant to them.  As long as killing Jews and destroying Israel remain priorities for so many extremists, it’s dangerously naïve to discount the Iranian threat.

I began by saying that I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming talks.  Realistically, I don’t believe that much will be accomplished.  But it’s a start.  Israel has no allies in the Middle East and it should take advantage of the possibility of a partnership.  Abbas and Fayyad are far from the peaceful, cooperative neighbors that Israel would ideally like to work with – but they’re the closest it has.

Abigail Cable is a regular contributor to Gather The Jews.