The State of Israel had a golden opportunity to scrutinize the frankness of their intentions to finalize a future peace agreement during Operation Fortress in 2002. Security forces uncovered the most guarded secrets of Arafat and his men in the PLO’s Ramallah archive, which contained thousands of security and political documents of unprecedented quality.
However, one document was conspicuously absent; a document that could have shed genuine light on the Palestinian Authority’s attitude to a future peace deal with Israel.
In the few historical junctions where the Palestinian national movement was called upon to make a decision regarding a possible historic compromise with the Zionist movement, the Palestinian leadership’s reply was unequivocally firm and determined: There would be no compromise because we, the Arabs, view the entire territory as belonging to the Arab Palestinian people.
The passing years have turned Palestinian rejectionism into a sanctified notion, one which current-day Palestinians address with the kind of reverence reserved for things that are greater than life.
Today we clearly know that Arafat, too, resorted to manipulation via the Oslo Accords. Even the greatest leader to rise within Palestinian society in the past 100 years froze in place when facing the dilemma of whether to shun the value of rejectionism. “Those who preach for compromise put their lives on the line,” is a commonly used dictum across the Palestinian Authority.
Those holding their breath ahead of Ramallah’s next moves should be aware of another important detail. Even the formulation of an agreed-upon Palestinian agenda is an impossible mission over there. The PA cannot close ranks even ahead of the possibility of make-belief direct talks.
We’ve seen that movie before
The Israeli side is insufficiently familiar with one of the main reasons for this: The deepening rift between the two main population groups comprising Palestinian society - the rural “mountain community” that never left the area, and the “coastal plain community” comprising the “1948 refugees.” Both groups realize that should talks get underway, a more “lenient” Israeli position could be elicited on only one of the four “core issues.”
And so, the group of 1948 refugees presses for focus on the “right of return” and the arrival of as many refugees to the area, while the first group clings to the notion of holding on to the land – that is, the removal of as many settlements as possible.
What our troops did find in the PLO archive, in large quantities, were numerous documents showing that the Palestinians are drawing immense benefits from the transitional status of “being less than a state” – which explains why they fell in love with the “peace process.” A peace activist recently told me that he tried to voluntarily bring hundreds of donated computers to PA children. “How much do I get for mediating this?” wondered a senior Fatah figure asked to offer his assistance.
Over the years, the PA’s leadership adopted techniques and skills that enable it to fully exploit its situation to its economic benefit. This transitional political situation, a twilight-zone government facing no scrutiny, is a political heaven for them made up of bottomless barrels of money. Who needs an actual state that would get into trouble sooner or later and be declared a failed state?
Colonel (res.) Moshe Elad is a researcher at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion. He also serves as a National Security Studies lecturer at the Western Galilee Academic College