The Peace Process is Dead. Let it lay in Peace

The first and obvious reason for this is because there is no longer a single, authoritative Palestinian national leadership.  Yasir Arafat, founder of Fatah, achieved little for his people and bequeathed them even less. One thing which he did both achieve and bequeath, however, was a single, united Palestinian national movement.

This achievement did not long survive him.

Arafat died in 2004. In 2007, the Palestinian movement split in two, with control of the Gaza Strip passing to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today, Hamas constitutes the more vigorous and formidable element in Palestinian nationalism. It presides over a small, sovereign Palestinian area. And of course, it opposes the negotiations and remains openly committed to the goal of destroying Israel.

There is no prospect of Palestinian re-unification in the foreseeable future (though Fatah spokesmen are forever proclaiming that it is just around the corner).

But there is a deeper and more historic aspect to this disunity. The division in Palestinian nationalism appears to be a return to the normal state of affairs, in which the Arab population of the area west and east of the Jordan River is divided into a variety of groups, with widely varying interests and agendas.

Palestinian identity, it turns out, like the neighboring Syrian and Iraqi and Lebanese identities, turns out to be a far more flimsy and contingent thing than its partisans and spokesmen have claimed.

The Israeli Arabs, though they continue to elect nationalist and Islamist representatives to the Knesset, react with horror to the prospect of exchanging their citizenship of the Jewish state for that of a putative Palestinian sovereignty.

This renders absurd the claim of membership in a broader Palestinian identity made by the elected leaders of these Israeli citizens.

There are today Palestinian Arab populations in three entities west of the Jordan River, each with their own interests, and own incompatible agendas.

In addition to this, of course, there is also a large majority Palestinian population in Jordan, which today mainly accepts the continued rule of the Hashemite monarchy.

So the very nature of the Palestinian political culture developed by Arafat and his colleagues precludes the conclusion of an agreement based on partition. But even if it did not, there is no single ‘pen’ with the authority to sign such an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians.

Israel will and should continue to make clear to both the PA leadership and to Jordan that it is willing to reach a solution based on partition with appropriate security guarantees, or a long term interim accord if this proves impossible.

Neither outcome looks imminent, however. Many Palestinians and the many western supporters of the Palestinian cause are convinced that the gradual international delegitimization of Israel is the key to final strategic victory over the Jewish state and the reversal of the verdict of 1948. This is an illusion. But it will need to work itself through, like the illusions that preceded it.

When it has, sadly, it is likely to be replaced by a new illusion. Thus the reckoning with the reality of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty will continue to be avoided, and the Palestinian politics of subsidized fantasy will continue.