The Flaw With Reviving the Peace Process
Next week, the Quartet for Middle East Peace—the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations—will meet for talks intended to restart the long-stalled Middle East peace process.
It appears that, among proponents of a negotiated peace between Arabs and Jews, a lie is rather suddenly being accepted as truth. The lie is that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) chief, is a “moderate” and a legitimate partner with whom to seek a solution to the conflict.
Under pressure from the U.S. and Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apparently embraced that lie when, in December, he broke nearly two years of no contact with the PA and exchanged kisses and handshakes with Abbas. At a two-hour meeting at his Jerusalem residence, Olmert made the first of a series of Israeli concessions intended to improve life for Palestinians.
First, he agreed to remove 27 Israeli security roadblocks in the West Bank (out of a few hundred) and released $100 million in frozen tax revenue to pay PA government employees who haven’t received their full paychecks since March last year. Israel had been withholding the tax money it collects for the PA ever since the terrorist organization Hamas took over the government; this was a means of pressuring Hamas to formally recognize Israel’s existence and to ensure the money would not be used for terrorism. (In truth, Israel still cannot guarantee the money won’t reach Hamas.)
Within days of the meeting, Egypt delivered a large arms shipment to Fatah forces—2,000 automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips and 2 million bullets. Some Israeli officials acknowledged approving the shipment as a means of strengthening Abbas, whose security personnel have reportedly complained of being outgunned in clashes with Hamas. Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, told Israel Radio the shipment was meant to build the “forces of peace” against the “forces of darkness.” Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he believed it would probably do some good: “The weapons are supposed to give Abu Mazen [Abbas] the ability to cope with organizations like Hamas, which are trying to destroy everything that is good. If this helps bolster Abu Mazen, then I support it.”
But Ben-Eliezer did then express this note of concern: “I only pray these weapons will not enter into the arsenal that is used against us.”
He has good reason to be concerned.
After the transfer of arms from Egypt, a spokesman for the Palestinian group called Popular Resistance Committees pledged that the rifles would be used against Israel. “We vow to show the Israelis very soon the weapons they lately channeled to the Presidential Guards and to the security services will be directed against the occupation,” he said. He contended that security personnel have sold weapons to Palestinian armed groups in the past, and that many of them are actually affiliated with resistance movements.
It is true that, next to Hamas—the radical terrorist organization that took control of the Palestinian government last March—Abbas looks pretty mild. This past year has witnessed a battle for control of Palestinian politics between the religious “Islam will rule the Middle East” forces of Hamas and the nationalistic “Palestinians deserve a home” ranks of Abbas’s Fatah movement. In reality, however, while these two sides may disagree on the methods and the fundamental reasons for pursuing their goals, they align on the idea, supported by the vast majority of Palestinians, that life would be a lot easier with Jews out of the way.
Consider what Abbas said during a January 11 speech in Ramallah in which he called on the Palestinian factions to end their fighting. “Shooting at your brother is forbidden,” Abbas stated. But, “Raising rifles against the occupation is our legitimate right …. We should put our internal fighting aside and raise our rifles only against the Israeli occupation.”
As the Philadelphia Daily News once put it, Abbas “has consistently held the hardline anti-Israel agenda since his years as a student. His doctoral dissertation was a full-blown foray into Holocaust denial and aimed to prove that Zionism and Nazism are branches of the same tree. … [Abbas] may wear a suit while [his predecessor Yasser] Arafat wore fatigues but much of their world view is still the same—the destruction of Israel remains on the ‘to do’ list” (Jan. 8, 2005). Throughout his two years in office, Abbas has repeatedly mocked his “moderate” status with provocative words and radical actions. He pledged to fulfill Arafat’s goals of securing Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” and seizing control over eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. He publicly called Israel the “Zionist enemy.” Rather than cracking down on terrorist activity, he approved sending governmental financial aid for the families of multiple thousands of suicide terrorists (this has consumed more than 10 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s billion-dollar budget), as well as for terrorists who are wounded or sitting in Israeli prisons. He bolstered his public image by calling terrorists his “brethren,” rubbing shoulders with them, and promising not to forcefully disarm their organizations. Since Abbas’s election, terrorist groups have grown flush with political clout, guaranteeing a future of violence with Israel.
Leaders must be judged by what they do, not what they say. As Jesus Christ said, by their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:20).
Many have been willing to dismiss Abbas’s record on terrorism as mere politics. But this ignores the larger truth of the matter. If Abbas feels he must behave like a radical in order to retain the support of the people he is to represent, how could he possibly guarantee peace to Israel? In essence, all he can offer Olmert is a promise that Arabs will stop attacking Jews. But that promise would never receive the commitment of the people who would supposedly be bound by it. Among the majority of Palestinians who want Israel gone, there would always be contingents willing to sacrifice their lives for that goal.
It is impossible to reconcile Palestinian aims with the peaceful, permanent existence of Israel. Even if he had the best of intentions, Abbas simply could not maintain a leadership role without accommodating the spirit of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who reject Israel’s existence.
Thus, the February 8 political agreement Abbas made with Hamas comes as no surprise. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will remain prime minster; Hamas will fill nine cabinet posts and Fatah six; nine others will go to independents and smaller factions. Under the new deal, Hamas “agreed to ‘respect’ previous peace negotiations signed by the Palestinians with Israel but stopped short of recognizing Israel …” (Guardian Unlimited, February 13). Though Gaza City was filled with revelers celebrating the agreement, this can hardly be viewed as a positive step for Israel. If anything, it may increase pressure on Israeli leaders to return to the table for “peace” talks.
This is the cloudy background setting for the Quartet talks next week. The reality is that, every time efforts are renewed to crank up the peace process, more violence results. Look at Israel’s history since the beginning of the peace process in Oslo in 1993, and one can easily see what a misguided idea it is to trust in your enemies to guarantee your protection—enemies who, in this case, have a self-declared and oft-proclaimed mission to crush you from existence. Biblical prophecy describes the peace process as Israel’s incurable “wound.” Read our booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy to learn more about what will come of it.