The Peace Process is Dead. Let it lay in Peace

The April 29th deadline has not yet been reached, but it may be said with confidence that the initiative by Secretary of State John Kerry to revive the ‘peace process’ between Israelis and Palestinians has already reached its final destination: failure.

The failure of this initiative was obvious from the beginning. To everyone except, apparently, Kerry himself. This reality lent an element of low farce to the entire proceedings.

By now, it should really be obvious to any serious observer that there is no chance that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process will produce a comprehensive peace between the two sides.

There are two core reasons for this. One of them is of long-standing, the other is a development of the last decade.

The first reason is because the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is simply not interested in exchanging its historic goal of reversing the verdict of 1948 for the establishment of a small Palestinian state in the West Bank.

This is the reason why it has refused every concrete proposal to end the conflict along these lines – from the Clinton proposals of 2000, via then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan in 2008, to the recent refusal by Abbas to declare that any agreement reached would mark an end to the conflict and to further Palestinian claims.

The volume of proof supporting this contention is now so enormous that it is truly astonishing that this point needs to be made. But illusions die hard, apparently.

So once more with feeling. The Fatah movement considers the acceptance of any sovereignty west of the Jordan river other than Arab Muslim sovereignty to be unimaginable. It will therefore never sign an agreement that includes the acceptance of such sovereignty. It will always find a reason not to do so, while for tactical reasons where necessary pretending that the problem is with the precise details of the agreement.

As to why Fatah cleaves to this position. On the more superficial level, mainstream Palestinian nationalism considers that the ‘imposition’ of Jewish sovereignty over part of former British Mandate Palestine (not ‘historic Palestine’, an entity that never existed) constitutes a crime of such horror and magnitude that it can never be accepted.

On a deeper level, this unusual refusal to compromise with reality derives from the movement’s Islamic roots (the very name ‘Fatah’ derives from a Koranic term meaning ‘Islamic conquest), which make it unimaginable that land once possessed by Muslims or Arabs can be accepted as having passed to another sovereignty. This process is experienced as particularly humiliating when the other sovereignty in question is that of a traditionally despised people, the Jews, rather than some mighty foreign empire.

Thus far, so obvious. The second, newer development, however, deserves closer attention.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process also has no chance of success because there is no authoritative Palestinian Arab partner to the talks. Why not?