Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Long Now

Have you wondered what Abbas is thinking?

His speech at the UN GA was his explanation of why after 63 years of post Nakba Palestinian suffering Israel must immediately be forced by the world to behave morally. It did not acknowledge any Israeli narrative or concerns, and restated his policy of demanding a stop to all building in the West Bank before he will resume negotiations.

Why would he do this? If he wants a state for his people, and a stop to settlement building, why would he not rush into negotiations? The Palestinians now have the momentum to push Israel into maximum concessions. This has got to be the perfect moment for him to aggressively negotiate in order to achieve his state.

Say what you want about Netanyahu, he acknowledged Palestinian (and Arab) concerns and aspirations in his speech. He called for immediate, vigorous negotiations to get to an end game. It is reasonable to ask if his government could hold together while pulling 100,000 Jews out of their homes after a signed agreement. Heck, its reasonable to ask if anyone could muster the political will from a majority within the Israeli population to support such self-inflicted trauma. And let's accept the, for now, the argument that Netanyahu has deliberately dragged his feet to stall the possibility of finding a deal.

The question is, who would he make it with? Abbas is making it impossible to have the discussion. And I am left wondering why he would make a choice like that. To a reasonable outsider, it would seem to not be in his best interest.

It is tempting to pull out Eban's "[they] never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" quote. But that is a description, not an explanation. It is also tempting to think of your opponent as crazy and irrational and let it go at that. But its usually a strategic blunder to underestimate that way. Israel made that mistake in 73.

It is possible that Abbas is taking a rational gamble. Perhaps he has accepted the popular Arab narrative that the West is in decline. With Europe and America in dire economic straits, and protests in the streets of major cities, they see our hegemony coming to an end. If the 20th century saw the falls of Fascism and Communism, it is possible that the 21st will see the fall of capitalist Democracies. While praying to God that this will not be the case, it is certainly a real possibility.

It may be that Abbas et. al. are banking on this. A decline of the West leaves a desperately unprotected Israel. If this is so, then the PA is stalling in order to hold off until they can achieve their ultimate goal. Its a frightening thought.

Let me leave off with two videos, one downer and one upper. The first shows a Fatah official explaining what the ultimate goal of the PA really is. He is speaking in Arabic, so its worth paying attention:

The other is an argument in Arabic about their culture today. It is some little cause for optimism that media culture means things like this are broadcast there. Enjoy.

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