Abunimah on why negotiations between Israel and Palestinian groups are unfair

Israel/Palestine
on 18 Comments

Salon runs Ali Abunimah, Inside the Mideast prisoner swap, very astute analysis of the various parties’ interests and limitations… Note the respect shown to violent resistance, a respect Americans would extend to any other anti-occupation situation in the world except for this one– and props to Salon for running it.

Israel did not negotiate with Hamas because Hamas is “moderate,” any more than the U.S. has negotiated with the Taliban in Afghanistan because it is “moderate,” or the U.K. negotiated with representatives of the Irish Republican Army because they were “moderate.”

In all those cases, enemies who had previously been declared off limits (“we don’t negotiate with terrorists”) were brought into the fold because they were in a position of strength.

Similarly, the reason Israel has been willing to limit its military assaults on the Gaza Strip recently is in part because Hamas and other Palestinian factions have been able to exercise limited deterrence with their rockets.

Netanyahu will not impose a settlement freeze in response to Abbas’ demands simply because Netanyahu believes in and supports the colonization of the West Bank, and Abbas does not have the power to make him.

Israel only negotiates seriously when it feels it has no other choice and when its adversary has enough power to impose an outcome it cannot prevent by other means.

Does this mean that Hamas and Israel could potentially do a deal over the broader issues? The answer is no, but not because of the conventional wisdom that Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel, espouses violence, and refuses to accept signed agreements.

In fact, Hamas has said repeatedly — including in a New York Times interview with its leader Khaled Meshal — that the movement is willing to accept a Palestinian state in only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, provided all Israeli settlements are removed and the rights of Palestinian refugees are respected.

But while Hamas was strong in the specific context of negotiations over prisoners, the movement by itself or even in combination with other Palestinian factions is not strong enough to compel Israel to meet broader demands.

The power balance remains too lopsided against Palestinians for negotiations to be anything more than what they have been for two decades: a cover for Israel to continue colonization.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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18 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    October 24, 2011, 10:59 am

    Nice to know why there’s been no progress. I’d figured that Palestinians needed an active (and anti-USA-hegemony) international community without any analysis further than looking at the 20 years that have gone by since Madrid — w/o progress.

  2. Dan Crowther
    October 24, 2011, 11:13 am

    I linked to this days ago on another thread – a lil behind the times, eh? No worries.

    You know what the hasbaraists are gonna say: Oh, so hamas should just take more hostages? Maybe kidnap whole families? – something along those lines

  3. Richard Witty
    October 24, 2011, 11:31 am

    The current administration only deals in threats.

    Other Israeli administrations had other approaches, always including threats, but also including assistance and reconciliation.

    Other analyses stated that Israel negotiated with Hamas TO divide the Palestinian community, to institute some conflict between Hamas and Fatah.

    In that respect, Ali Abunimeh has periodically joined Israel in that division, particularly resulting from his denunciations of Fatah for attempting to negotiate with Israel, for willingly compromising at features that he considers fundamental (other Palestinians similarly).

    The theme of “were brought into the fold because they were in a position of strength” is partially true, and partially false and dangerous.

    It is equally true, perhaps more true, that Fatah demonstrated a more profound threat to Israel, in the UN petition effort that would give Palestine the ability to sue in world judicial institutions, that Israel sought to deflect from.

    The flaw in the argument that I see, is the encouragement for arms and likely conflict escalation. It conflicts with his otherwise advocacy of non-violent approaches.

    And, as the non-violent assertion is such a critical component of the BDS campaign, and of the single-state campaign, it is dangerous for him to propose any rationalization for escalation.

    The condition that Israel is in is of “some risk”, not “no risk” and not “at war” (all risk). And, within Israel, with some risk at play, the logic of likud and others is to present confidence in their risk aversion capacity.

    “No risk” has never been offered in practice. For example, the insistence to remove the settlers (even ones living on land that was purchased by Jews before 1948) is partially an advocacy of ethnic cleansing.

    • annie
      October 24, 2011, 12:05 pm

      Other analyses stated that Israel negotiated with Hamas TO divide the Palestinian community

      yes, like the ex mossad chief as i recall. and other israeli gov characters according to wikileaks. seriously richard this isn’t in debate anymore.

      • Shingo
        October 24, 2011, 3:50 pm

        Or like Cast Lead and starrting a war with Lebsnon.

    • Kilenee
      October 24, 2011, 1:04 pm

      “For example, the insistence to remove the settlers (even ones living on land that was purchased by Jews before 1948) is partially an advocacy of ethnic cleansing.”

      It’s ethnic cleansing to remove people illegally occupying land that they stole within the last few decades? If you have so much concern about this incredibly minor and limited form of “ethnic cleansing,” I imagine you would be a staunch advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people currently facing a much more dangerous (and real form) of ethnic cleansing going on at this very moment, right?
      As for the settlers there since 1948, there are virtually none. In the UNGA Partition Resolution, 11.2% of land given to the Jewish state was Jewish owned, while over 99% of land given to the Palestinian state was fully Palestinian owned. This includes regions like the Negev, which was awarded to Israel despite its population of 103,000 Arabs versus 1,020 Jews.

    • justicewillprevail
      October 24, 2011, 1:36 pm

      Richard: complete and utter nonsense. Now, go over to the thread about the IDF and the fascist settlers (including their Damien-like children) ruining the olive harvest, for no good reason, and try your patronising attempt at telling the IDF and their henchmen that must offer non-violence and stop the ethnic cleansing. Do some good.

    • Dex
      October 24, 2011, 2:06 pm

      No offense, but you really need to polish your writing skills. I know you are trying to be careful and precise in your posts — understandable, considering you’ve chosen to side with the oppressor in this case — but they come across as little more than rambling nonsense by a person who seems to be more interested in sounding “intelligent” then actually making clear points.

      • Richard Witty
        October 24, 2011, 2:42 pm

        Its a simplistic analysis to declare “you’ve sided with the oppressors”.

        I’ve stated my support for Fayyad and Abbas, and support for Hamas’ reconciliation with Fatah, and even greying of conflict between Hamas and Israel.

        Is that all you see?

        For us/against us.

      • Cliff
        October 24, 2011, 2:47 pm

        You support the Nakba while, when relevant – downplaying it’s historical significance with respect to your HYPOCRISY in relation to the removal of illegal Jewish settlements.

        Who cares what you think? You’re a ‘token’ demographic on MW. Due to a shortage of people who could be classified as ‘liberal’ Zionists, you are continually allowed to pollute the blog.

      • Shingo
        October 24, 2011, 3:52 pm

        Its a simplistic analysis to declare “you’ve sided with the oppressors”.

        Not simplistic Witty, but “simple”.

      • Shingo
        October 24, 2011, 3:54 pm

        …but they come across as little more than rambling nonsense by a person who seems to be more interested in sounding “intelligent” then actually making clear points.

        Very well put Dex, but it’s more a fear of sounding like a true fascist racist supremacist, that explains why Witty goes to such extraordinary lengths not to sound offensive – to the point where his posts are utterly incoherent.

  4. hophmi
    October 24, 2011, 1:44 pm

    So basically, “all they understand is force.”

    Putting aside for the moment that Abunimah’s analysis is a little flawed (Hamas exercises no deterrence whatsoever), do you subscribe to this philosophy, Phil?

    • annie
      October 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

      (Hamas exercises no deterrence whatsoever)

      did you follow Ali’s link? according to haaretz:

      Defense officials told the cabinet that so far, Hamas had not participated in the rocket fire; it had all come from smaller terrorist groups like the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad, the officials noted.

      Netanyahu, who has refrained from blaming Hamas for either last Thursday’s cross-border attack from Sinai or the subsequent rocket fire from Gaza, insisted that Israel did not negotiate with Hamas over a cease-fire. The truce, he said, was a unilateral decision by Hamas.

      Nevertheless, he added, Israel wouldn’t escalate the situation as long as the south remained quiet.

      of course it has since been revealed israel knew the eilat attack didn’t come from gaza but they bombed them for a week anyway.

    • Shingo
      October 24, 2011, 3:56 pm

      Hamas exercises no deterrence whatsoever

      His analysis is not flawed, you’re just ignorant Hop. Israel aknowledged that Hamas were deterring militants from firing rockets at Gaza.

  5. Avi_G.
    October 24, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Similarly, the reason Israel has been willing to limit its military assaults on the Gaza Strip recently is in part because Hamas and other Palestinian factions have been able to exercise limited deterrence with their rockets.

    This doesn’t make sense to me. How is this supposed to fit into the twenty two day Israeli assault on Gaza in early 2009?

    • Shingo
      October 24, 2011, 4:02 pm

      How is this supposed to fit into the twenty two day Israeli assault on Gaza in early 2009?

      That’s obvious Avi. Cast Lead was not about stopping rockets, but weakening Hamas.

      Israel did the same thing in 2006. They were demanding that the Lebanese military control Hezbollah while bombing the Lebanese military bases.

      There’s no logic to it.

  6. piotr
    October 24, 2011, 4:48 pm

    I think that Witty is unfairly characterized. His position on the desired solution is a rather fair form of “2SS”. Mind you, most advocates of “1SS” here start with the premise that “given the current extend of settlements, 2SS is impossible”, which kind of advocates legalizing the current extend of settlements. 2SS would legalize the land expropriations prior to 1967 on similarly pragmatic grounds.

    In comment sections of various blogs Witty was objecting to settlement expansion and various act of oppression.

    Where Witty becomes “advocate of the oppressors” is in insistence that the solution to ME problem must be obtained without inflicting even purely symbolic and psychological damage to Jewish Israeli, as, let us face it, BDS is not much more than that.

    About deterrence:

    Clearly, Hezbollah obtained a degree of deterrence. As its true capability is in the realm of “strategic ambiguity”, this could even confer a degree of deterrence upon Iran.

    In the last confrontation when Ehud Barak decided to kill folks in Gaza for a good cheer after gloomy news from Eilat, militants had enough semi-decent missiles to prevent 100-1 ratio in killing that Israel counts as a “success”. This is a weird kind of deterrence: sufficient to partially deter IDF from killing folks for no reason whatsoever. Would Israel see some actual reasons to attack, the calculus of deterrence would be different. Yet, given IDF proclivities, such meager deterrence is better than nothing.

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