That behavior represents the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not ready to make peace. It seems quite reasonable to posit that Obama has reached the same conclusion as the one Romney articulated.
To begin with, remember there are two Palestinian leaderships today. Hamas is openly against peace, though a surprising number of people seem to forget that periodically. The PA is genuinely, relatively more moderate — a factor that has some benefits — and certainly far more subtle. But on this issue the bottom line is precisely the same.
Why doesn’t the PA want a real, lasting peace? For a lot of reasons. Much, not all but probably 90 percent, of the leadership still believes that they should and will take power in all of the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Even though they know that Israel is not likely to go away easily or even at all, they hope that something will turn up.
Beyond that, they know that their colleagues and even rivals will use any sign of compromise — the kind of behavior needed to end the conflict in a treaty — as evidence of treason. Their career will be finished and their life might be in danger. Sure, PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas might tell a small meeting of Jews that Israel is here to stay but when it leaks into the press and provokes great anger among the other leaders, he passionately denies it. He certainly isn’t going to embody it in a document that would be simultaneously peace treaty and his own death warrant.
Third, the Palestinian leaders know that they have inflamed their people for decades and spoken endlessly of the evil perfidy of the Jews and the inevitability of total victory. Palestinian public opinion won’t sustain real compromise and the acceptance of Israel as a neighbor. The PA’s own television, radio, newspapers, leaders’ speeches, schools, and mosque sermons by its appointed prayer leaders repeat the hard line every day, indeed every hour.
I have written hundreds of pages of books and articles on the details of this issue. Space is insufficient here, but please consider this one example. Barack Obama took office in January 2009 as the most pro-Palestinian president in U.S. history. He offered to give the Palestinians the most and Israel the least. It was a dream situation if the PA and Palestinians wanted to make peace on the best possible terms.
Yet what happened? The PA leadership shafted Obama. When Abbas arrived in Washington for their first meeting, he made clear in a Washington Post interview that he had no intention of negotiating and reaching a deal. When Obama announced in late 2010 that he was about to launch intensive negotiations at Camp David, Abbas refused the invitation. And when Obama pressed Israel into an unprecedented nine-month-long construction freeze on the West Bank, the PA refused to talk at all until just before the expiration of that period, and then only to demand an extension.
So, of course, Romney was correct in what he said. Indeed, he was merely stating the obvious. In the current upside-down era, telling the truth is heresy, or at least there are powerful establishment figures who try to make it seem so.
What’s most important here, though, is not just this specific statement or this particular issue but a basic principle absolutely vital to the survival of the United States: If we are barred from recognizing the nature of our problems we will surely find no solutions.
Thumbnail image courtesy shutterstock / albund