Above all, there is an overarching reason Israeli gestures fail: as do Palestinians as a whole, Abbas’ Fatah Party — which controls the PA — has never accepted Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and has loudly proclaimed that it never will. Abbas has said it plainly (“I do not accept the Jewish state, call it what you will”) as have other PA officials. Numerous polls, like the July 2011 Palestinian Center for Public Opinion poll, demonstrate this fact (61% rejection against 34% acceptance of Palestinian statehood in peace alongside Israel). Unsurprisingly, the PA has yet to make good on its 17-year old obligations under Oslo to arrest terrorists and to end incitement to hatred and murder against Israel.
Israeli gestures that are divorced from a genuine process of give and take also cause harm: they bolster a Palestinian entitlement mentality that militates against moderation. The other week, the PA even rejected a unilateral Israeli offer to free 30 Palestinian prisoners and cede further powers to the PA in parts of the West Bank in order merely to resume negotiations. Internationally, Israeli gestures enable the misapprehension that Palestinians have done all they need do, and that the ball is therefore in Israel’s court. Indeed, merely to talk of the need for Israeli confidence-building measures serves to keep the real issues of Palestinian rejection, terrorism, and incitement off the agenda. And where Israeli concessions do not occur or are rejected, the conclusion is that the Israelis, rather than the Palestinians, are unwilling to do what is necessary to make peace.
There is no sign that the Obama administration wishes to take note. It is a fully paid member of the church of believers in the prophylactic virtues of Israeli pliability. There are, however, some signs that the Netanyahu government is seeking to finesse the latest wave of pleas for confidence-building measures.
An official in Netanyahu’s office has said:
The idea is not for Israeli unilateral confidence-building measures. Rather, we are ready [to act] within the framework of a peace process that is working for mutual confidence measures.
Just so. Israeli confidence-building measures — unilateral giveaways — are proven failures. Barring a transformation of Palestinian politics and society, they always will be.