A colleague, who was one of the signatories to the J Street Open Letter to the community entitled “Our Hope Remains”, has, as I would have expected, argued the Palestinian case convincingly for refusing to participate in direct negotiations as long as Israel refuses to reinstate the moratorium on construction.
He contends that “a group of people who – for years – has witnessed the
encroachment of ‘facts on the ground’, that is, the increasing settlement
footprint, (…) may rightly wonder about where and when the construction
stops, as well as the extent of the ultimate boundaries of a future
All the more reason why Mahmoud Abbas should not have stubbornly refused to
engage in direct negotiations over the past 10 months when Israel was
operating, at President Obama’s request, a moratorium on building on the
The Palestinians have been refusing to negotiate a peace deal for years. It
all started following the 6-Day War in 1967 when the Arab League, meeting in
Khartoum, declared “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no
negotiations with it.” Yassir Arafat could have signed a peace treaty with
Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000 or at Taba in January 2001, but he too
didn’t really want to do so, anymore than Mahmoud Abbas does.
Everyone knows that a peace treaty, if it were ever to be signed, would
involve Israel returning to the 1967 borders with territorial exchanges
compensating the Palestinians for areas where there are major concentrations
of Jewish population (see http://www.herzliyaconference.org/_Uploads/2135stahim2.pdf).
Indeed, such land swops are already envisioned in the Geneva Accords of October 2003 (see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/genevamap2.html).
Therefore, contrary to what my colleague insists, there is really little doubt about what the borders of a future Palestinian state would look like.
I am no supporter of the current Israeli government. However, the fact that
we don’t already have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel
is not because of settlement construction. (How many homes could Israelis
seriously construct over the next couple of months?) The real problem is – and
successive studies attest to this – that most Palestinians are not really
interested in a two-state solution.