Mideast Peace: A Third Option
Wed, 12/26/2012

Gary Rosenblatt’s column succinctly captured the dilemma facing Israel regarding the Palestinians (“Hawk Or Dove On The Mideast, I Disagree With You,” Dec. 21).

On the one hand, maintaining control of where the Palestinians live would mean either that Israel would cease to be a Jewish state or that the Palestinians would have to be kept in their unequal state raising questions about Israel’s democratic credentials. On the other hand, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, representing the “moderate” wing of the Palestinian national movement (PNM), at best gives mixed signals as to what he would do if he would get everything he can possibility get through cooperation with the international community. Unfortunately, too few people are willing to recognize both sides of the equation. Rather, almost everyone either cites the former exclusively in order to advocate complete surrender to the PNM’s English demands or the latter exclusively in order to advocate indefinite continuation of the status quo.

However, there is a third-way approach that does address both sides. That would be to conduct talks with groups of Palestinians who genuinely seek accommodation with Israel, in particular, those who do not hold that Abbas’ or Hamas’ demands are their demands. An example would be the Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who documents Fatah’s corruption and shared objectives with Hamas as aggressively as any Israeli right-winger. Increasing the international esteem of such Palestinians would have two effects. It would convince Israelis weary of the conflict but cynical about the PNM that there is a Palestinian partner, and it would suggest to a wider audience that one should not measure how much one helps the Palestinians by how much one curtails the Zionist project.

Winning support of such Palestinian groups, and certainly enabling them to win greater support within their domestic politics, would require greater concessions than the current Israeli government is offering. However, such concessions would be considerably less than Abbas’ demands.

Such an approach risks mistakenly identifying a group as accommodationists. Further, there is no guarantee that any effort would succeed in raising any Palestinian group’s influence in domestic politics. However, such an approach would attack both sides of the problem instead of ignoring one side or the other.

 

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Insofar as I know, Khaled Abu Toameh is an Israeli-Palestinian, i.e., a citizen of Israel. Aside from the fact that he doesn't represent anyone to negotiate for, this letter misses the fact that Abbas welcomes negotiations with Israel and fully accepts Israel's sovereignty in a two-state solution. Where he balks (and this is understandable from his point of view, but perhaps a strategic error) is that he refuses to negotiate while Israel expands settler housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the territory that needs to be negotiated over.

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