No More 'Peace Talks,' Please

The current round of Israeli-Palestinian meetings in Jordan ended with a Palestinian decision to leave. “The Israelis brought nothing new in these meetings,” said one official, without bothering to note the obvious -- neither did the Palestinians.

The talks were the result of a Quartet plan to have Israelis and Palestinians make proposals on territory and security in hopes of reaching a deal in 2012. Questions abound, but the most important is, “How many more times will this farce be played out without recognition of the real and incompatible bottom lines of the two parties?”

It is that fundamental incompatibility -- not the lack of pressure or lack of bribes -- that prevents the present creation of the mythical “two-state solution” embedded in the Oslo Accords, negotiated without U.S. participation, and signed in 1993.

From the Israeli side, Oslo had three underlying assumptions:

  • That Palestinian nationalism could be understood as the mirror image of Jewish nationalism (Zionism);

  • That Palestinian nationalism could find its full expression in a West Bank and Gaza Strip state; and

  • That there is a price Israel, the United States, and Europe could pay to the Palestinians that would overcome any remaining Palestinian objection to Jewish sovereignty in the region.

All three assumptions have been proven wrong.

Jewish nationalism was based on the idea of "regularizing" Jews in their historic homeland. David Ben-Gurion is said to have wanted to see Jewish policemen arresting Jewish criminals because that's what "normal" people do.  For most Zionists, statelessness was an impediment to normalcy; getting a state was the highest priority, even if that required territorial compromise.

Israelis projected their own definition of nationalism onto the Palestinians, reflected in the idea of territory for peace, i.e., a Palestinian state at peace with Israel.

Palestinian nationalism is not based on a passion for normalization through getting a state as quickly as possible, but rather on the idea that "their land" was usurped by Israel in 1948. Therefore it is more important for Israel to be wiped out than for a Palestinian state to exist. It is more important to get all of the territory than to achieve benefits by compromising to get part of it.