A Pyrrhic victory will not achieve Palestinian state
Last Updated: Jan 25, 2011
More than a few commentators have pronounced the peace process dead. The bombshell dropped by Al Jazeera yesterday landed squarely on the credibility of the Palestinian Authority, which is accused of offering to give up most of East Jerusalem and refugees' right of return. Israel, on the other hand, appears intransigent despite concessions that Palestinians have held precious since 1967.
But if sensational leaks to the media over the past year have taught us anything, it is that it takes time for a more coherent picture to emerge. President Mahmoud Abbas stopped just short of calling the reports deliberate misinformation on the part of Al Jazeera, saying that actually Israel had suggested these major concessions. The source of the leak, not to mention the motives, are still open to conjecture.
Some, if not all, of these questions should be answered in the coming days. Mr Abbas will be fighting a rearguard action to defend the Palestinian Authority's position, first and crucially to his own people. Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian cause and his political survival may be in the balance. Hamas has already rendered a predictable verdict on the PA's supposed complicity with Israel.
The reverberations may have as much to do with timing as the revealed content. Many of the allegations have already been published; the new salvo of charges does lend credence to Mr Abbas's claim that this is a political attack, among other things.
The peace talks are stalled, a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements was introduced last week, and the US is facing a decision whether to veto. The leaks will undoubtedly influence this debate.
But nothing can make these concessions palatable to the Palestinian people or their allies. In the absence of meaningful US pressure, Benjamin Netanyahu's government has, sometimes against all logic, successfully championed an agenda of sheer immovability. This would not be the first time that Israel has been offered and refused major concessions.
What all sides seem to be ignoring is that a Greater Israel alongside an eviscerated Palestine is not a viable two-state solution. The Palestinian Authority could not surrender the basic claims of its constituents even if it chose; to do so would only give oxygen to extremists and future conflicts.
Israel's hard right turn in recent years has ignored this long-term reality. Perhaps the PA has been blinkered as well, but an unjust deal would be a detour, not a solution.