Chas Freeman: Kerry’s talks leave out 4 of 5 Palestinians

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At the American Conservative, Scott McConnell has published a piece offering William Pfaff’s argument that the greatest effect the US could have on the Arab spring would be to take action now to bring about partition, and a viable Palestinian state. But this is certainly not where John Kerry’s negotiations are headed. 

McConnell cites the report from Sam Bahour, based on documents purportedly leaked to an Arab newspaper, indicating what the Palestinian Authority has agreed to already. The leak asserts, McConnell says,

that in order to sit down for talks, the PA has already agreed to accept Israel’s territorial grabs around Jerusalem, and the seizure of the water reserves under the Israeli side of the ‘separation wall’ and beneath the large settlements planned and sited so as to deny a Palestinian state’s contiguity. Many Palestinians would call the enclaves they would receive around the large Israeli settlements and connecting infrastructure “bantustans” and they would be right.

Perhaps this kind of negotiating result is inevitable between a party as weak as the Palestinian Authority and as strong as Israel. But it doesn’t guarantee peace so much as oppression of the Palestinians under a modified guise.

McConnell then quotes former ambassador Chas Freeman’s incisive take on Sam Bahour’s report. Here it is:

It seems to me that the structure of these talks (even if it is not built on the preposterously one-sided formulas cited in Sam’s report) overlooks and violates a basic maxim of diplomacy.  An agreement that excludes and fails to address the interests of those with the capacity to wreck it is no agreement at all.

All Palestine has now been divided into four parts.  The Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are ignored by both the Israeli authorities and forgotten by the international community.  The other three parts of Palestine are the West Bank, Gaza, and the Diaspora Palestinians driven from their homes into residence in refugee camps and foreign countries.

Of these three parts, the Palestinian Authority, which the United States has appointed to represent Palestinian interests in negotiations with Israel, and which is now talking to the government of Israel under U.S. auspices is the weakest.  It lacks a popular mandate, is dependent on foreign subsidies and tax revenue collected by Israel, relies on Israel’s staunchest foreign backer to extract Israeli concessions that will permit self-determination by Palestinians, polices the Jewish state’s occupation of the West Bank and isolation of Gaza, and whines ineffectually as Israel’s colonial enterprise consumes its territory and displaces its people.  The PA cannot speak for Palestinians in Gaza or in the Diaspora, neither of whom would be bound by any agreement it might reach with Israel.

In January 2006, Hamas gained a popular mandate to govern all of Palestine beyond the 1967 borders of Israel.  It is now besieged in Gaza by both Israel and Arab opponents of Islamist democracy.  Neither Hamas nor Gazan Palestinians are represented in the so-called “peace process.”  Neither will have a stake in making anything that might emerge from it work. 

The 7 million Palestinians who live outside their homeland have not been represented in discussions of its future since the Oslo accords created the PA.  Revanchism on their part would not be cured by a deal between Israel and the PA.

I don’t see how the “peace process’ Kerry has contrived is a path to peace even for the fifth or so of the Palestinians (those on the West Bank) whose future it purports to address.  A peace that proposes to exclude about four-fifths of Palestinians is a fatally flawed diplomatic fraud — not, of course, the first one in this arena.

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