Abbas Is No Partner for Peace, but That Doesn't Mean Israel Should Turn Its Back on Talks

Even Yossi Beilin has come to the realization that the Palestinians are also responsible for the lack of a peace agreement.

Gadi Taub
Gadi Taub
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Netanyahu addressing the UN on September 29, 2014, and Abbas doing the same three days earlier. Photos by AFP
Netanyahu addressing the UN on September 29, 2014, and Abbas doing the same three days earlier. Photos by AFP
Gadi Taub
Gadi Taub

“You say that it all depends on the Israeli side,” Yossi Beilin wrote in an appeal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Haaretz (“Dear Abbas, answer Kerry, and establish a Palestinian state now,” May 3), “but the one who can lead the decision toward [a two-state] solution more than anybody else is you, Mr. President.”

Beilin asks Abbas to accept the parameters that United States Secretary of State John Kerry proposed in March 2014 and “declare your readiness” to negotiate the implementation of the second stage of the Bush road map that will lead to a Palestinian state within provisional borders.

These are very profound words from someone who was identified for so many years with the faith that the other side was ready to end the conflict. Even when others had given up hope, Beilin kept insisting that there is a partner, and that if we will it, it is no dream. However, now he, too, says that for the moment it does not depend solely on us, even if we want it. I do not see another way of interpreting his plea other than as determining that if Abbas does not change his positions, we have no partner for a permanent solution.

Beilin reached this conclusion with the perspective of having worked for many years on the details. The ongoing negotiations rested on the assumption that another kilometer, another percentage of territory, another 10,000 refugees and it would be possible to finish stretching the bridge over the abyss. However, his accumulated experience showed that at every critical junction the Palestinians found the kilometer or percentage (let alone the right of return) to prevent agreement.

The same could be concluded from a bird’s-eye view. It is no coincidence that Palestinian textbooks continue to draw the map of Palestine without Israel. It is no coincidence that Palestinian Authority propaganda praises martyrs. It is no coincidence that the PA has not dedicated the enormous resources that the international community has provided it to nation building. And, it is no coincidence that they continue to promise the right of return. The Palestinian leadership does not recognize our right to a nation state of our own in the areas that it sees as its land, and no combination of the details can hide this fact.

However, the conclusion that there is no partner for a permanent deal does not mean that we should turn our backs on negotiations. There are at least three main grounds for this. First, we should not rule out the possibility that the orientation of the Palestinian leadership will change some day. Second, even in the absence of readiness for a permanent deal, it is likely that an interim deal is possible that will lay the framework for future division. But even if none of this happens soon, Israel should continue offering partition, if only to remind the international community that the continued conflict is not our sole responsibility, and its conclusion does not depend currently on our will.

It is hard to expect that Netanyahu’s right-wing government will initiate brave offers of the kind that Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert laid on the table. It may be committed to a two-state solution in principle, but in practice it undermines it and continues the destructive settlement enterprise. Had this government been less confrontational and less stingy, it would have been enough to improve, and not just tactically, Israel’s international standing. The Palestinians seek to be portrayed always as the sole victims, but the responsibility for the continued conflict rests in great deal at their doorstep, only the Israeli government manages to hide this fact from the eyes of the world.

If members of this rightist coalition fear in their heart of hearts that even dialogue with the PA would send Israel down the slippery slope that has waiting at the bottom a partner for partition and peace, they can rest at peace. Regretfully, there is no such slope. In this regard, they can accept, it seems to me, Yossi Beilin’s opinion.

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