Part 2 of analysis
The radicals take full advantage of the structural flaw within Palestinian society. They know that it is enough to make up a delusional charge as if the Jews are undermining the pillars of the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to topple it and build the Temple on its ruins, in order to grant popular support to the hooligans scheming to stone Jewish worshippers on Sukkot.
Even if they are unable to prompt the masses to riot in the streets, they force the leadership into public solidarity and diplomatic paralysis. And if the Palestinians in the West Bank are fed up with these provocations, we can always count on the Islamic Movement in Israel to enlist the entire Arab Israeli leadership to the cause, ranging from Tibi to the more “moderate” figures, with all of them joining a festival of hatred aimed at “defending themselves” against Jewish schemes.
In such atmosphere, Fayyad and Abbas have no chance to engage in fruitful dialogue with Israel, both because their room for maneuver just shrunk, and also because Israel realizes they cannot lead their society to agree to a viable compromise.
And if all this isn’t enough, the Palestinian handling of the Goldstone Report exposed another grave structural weakness. The whole of Palestinian society – in the Strip, in the West Bank, and in Israel – has become addicted to the pose of the ultimate victim, which involves de-legitimization of the Jewish State’s existence.
When the Palestinian anti-Semitic propaganda regarding Israeli “crimes” was granted a tailwind courtesy of a negligent and unfair Jewish judge, who works in the service of a body hostile to Israel, the Palestinians were unable to forego the party. Abbas realized that it would be proper to focus on dialogue with Israel and enlist the help of an American president who convinced himself that resolving the Palestinian issue is crucial for world peace and the interests of the US. American representatives explained to him resolutely that the Goldstone festival will hinder the US effort to bring Israel to accept a desirable Palestinian deal, and he agreed to postpone the UN debate on the matter.
Yet the reaction of Palestinian society to the rejection relegated Abbas’ diplomatic considerations to his countrymen’s obsessive need to take the victim’s role on the international stage. The problem is not about Hamas’ attempt to present Abbas as a traitor, or about the inherent irresponsibility of the elected Arab leadership in Israel. Hamas, Tibi, and others indeed have an interest in showing that they reject Israel more than Abbas does, yet they would not have been able to force him to reverse his policy unless they enjoyed wide popular support for their charges.
Abbas realized that his attempt to enlist US support for the Palestinian issue outraged his own people: A person who does not identify with violent hooliganism in Jerusalem and gives up an opportunity to de-legitimize Israel and its war on terror cannot be a Palestinian leader. Abbas indeed realizes that without suppressing Hamas’ terror he has no chance to guarantee a better life for the next generation, yet he cannot but lead the campaign that aims to grant this terrorism immunity vis-à-vis Israel’s countermeasures.
Israel’s problem is not that there’s no Palestinian we can discuss a constructive deal with. The problem is that when a Palestinian who shows indications of political responsibility appears, he cannot speak on behalf of his people.
Dr. Dan Schueftan is the director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa