Netanyahu scares them, mostly because of his political ability to secure an agreement. He has no meaningful opposition on the Right, and Kadima is just waiting for a sign from him to join the government, embrace him, and support him should the Right quit the coalition. The Palestinians fear exactly that – because they cannot finalize such deal.
The first reason for this is the refugee problem. Any Palestinian or Arab leader who says something that is interpreted as any kind of concession on the right of return – which would bring millions of Arabs into Israel – knows that he shall immediately be accused of treason, and Hamas will have a field day with it.
Indeed, the education systems in the Palestinian Authority and in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan continue to perpetrate the notion of return in every possible way.
Moreover, the PLO leadership fears that in the case of an agreement that would include “an end to the conflict” and “no more demands,” it will find itself mixed up with Syria and Lebanon, which are interested in getting rid of the 1948 refugees and their descendents. These two countries may even sabotage an agreement by expelling hundreds of thousands of them to Palestine – this is the last thing the Palestinian leadership wants.
The second reason is Jerusalem. Under the leadership of a rightist Israeli government, partitioning the city appears to be an impossible mission, and the Palestinian leadership cannot present its public with a deal that would include less than the dream outline by Arafat: “One Palestinian state with the holy Jerusalem as its capital.”
Living at world’s expense
Another reason is economic. For some years now, the Palestinian Authority has been making a good living off public and government funds from Europe, the US, and the Arab and Islamic world. This has reached the point where Palestinian per capita disposable income is double that of Egypt’s.
The PA leadership fears that the moment an independent Palestinian state is declared, donations would dry up, as the world will expect the Palestinians to start supporting themselves just like any other independent state. The Palestinians, who got used to living at the expense of others, cannot bear to think about the day where they’ll have to make a living on their own.
Finally, instead of an agreement it does not want, the Palestinian leadership sees an alternative. More and more voices, both Israeli and Arab, are calling for a one-state solution, which will be democratic and enable both people – the Jewish Israelis and the Arab Palestinians – to coexist in line with an agreed-upon arrangement, as is the case in Belgium.
Oddly enough, the one-state solution is endorsed in Israel both by the extreme Right, which still clings to the notion of the Greater Israel, and by the radical Left, which has no problem sharing a home with the Arabs, as long as everyone thinks that it’s being enlightened and liberal.
However, it appears that the one-state solution is to the liking of someone else: The Palestinian leadership, as this would spare it the need to concede something in writing.
In one state, the life of Palestinians would be better than today, as they will enjoy civilian rights in a modern state. And if at one point the Jews decide to run away (taking this modern state along with them,) this too would be a blessing – that way, they would gain the entire land without a deal and without concessions. So why enter negotiations?
Dr. Mordechai Keder, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University
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