Israel’s Problem Isn’t Palestinian Nationalism — It’s Palestinians Themselves

Border police officers stand in front of Palestinians as they wait to cross from Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem. (photo:

Most of the circumstances that made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ripe for resolution — or at least made the peace process attractive to both parties — have all but disappeared over the past decade.

By Noam Sheizaf / +972 Magazine
August 20, 2017

A national movement requires genuine mass engagement in a political vision and a working project that cuts across boundaries of region, clan, and class, and a defined and acknowledged leadership with the legitimacy and representative standing that empowers it to act in its people’s name. This no longer holds for Fatah, the P.A., or the P.L.O.

Many Israelis were likely happy to read The New Yorker article titled “The End of This Road: The Decline of the Palestinian National Movement” earlier this month. The piece is of particular interest due to where it was published — the liberal elite’s most prominent magazine, which generally champions the Zionist Left and the American-backed two-state solution.

The identity of its authors is also noteworthy: Ahmad Samih Khalidi was involved in Israeli-Palestinian talks for years; Hussein Agha is a close associate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was charged with holding secret talks with Yitzhak Molcho — Netanyahu’s chief envoy to the negotiations — and Obama’s former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross in the run-up to John Kerry’s peace initiative in 2013.

For the same reason we should also take the authors’ main argument, according to which Abbas is the last remaining Palestinian who can sign a final-status agreement, with a grain of salt. Yet the headline is not misleading, and it joins a long list of publications that rightfully declare the end of the Oslo peace process.

Over the past decade, most of the circumstances that made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ripe for resolution — or at least made the peace process attractive to both parties — have all but disappeared. The process began with the Madrid Conference at the end of the First Intifada, the Palestinian uprising that subverted and upended Israel’s mechanisms of control in the occupied territories at the time, which meant that Israel was suddenly faced with managing a hostile population. Meanwhile, as the Cold War came to an end, the United States was the sole remaining superpower to which the rest of the world wanted to get closer. The peace process promised Israel a thaw in relations with the Third World, an economic leap, and an end to the Arab boycott. Meanwhile, the then-exiled PLO was facing a crisis and feared the emergence of an alternative leadership developing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Twenty-five years later, Israel has grown stronger, including with regards to its influence over internal American politics. The low-hanging fruit of the peace process have already been picked. It is convenient for the Israeli Right, which loves to criticize Oslo, to forget the positive effect the accords had on Israel’s position in the world — its improved relations with Europe, China, and the United States, and the ensuing economic upswing. Other unharvested fruit, such as the prospect of total normalization with the Arab world, seem far less attractive following the Arab Spring.

Today Israel is perceived as a Middle East superpower. The United States, on the other hand, is buckling under the weight of crisis after crisis, as well as a weak and dysfunctional government. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, can do everything in his power when he flies into the region later this month — a final-status agreement won’t come of it.

[Read the full article here . . . ]