Thursday, February 25, 2010

Palestine "Peace Talks" Are a Waste of Time

Recent attempts to get the peace talks going again in Palestine seem likely to meet with failure, again. I predict each principal will pretend to cooperate while finding ways to torpedo them and trying to pin the blame for failure on an opponent.

The reason is simple: The present “cold war” and resulting stasis serves the current interests of the principals, and successful peace talks would not.

Consider: Israel continues to fill in settlements in the portions of the West Bank it controls behind its Barrier, even if at a slower pace than it might like. Fatah and others in control of events in the West Bank continue to benefit handsomely from mostly Western aid - $1.7 billion in the most recent year I’ve seen – as do West Bank Arabs to some degree: The West Bank’s economy grew an estimated 4-5% per annum amid worldwide financial crisis and recession and its population is also growing rapidly. Hamas continues to tighten its grip on the Gaza strip, giving it a territory next to its hated enemy from which it can attempt further violence and a local economy to feed on.

If “real peace” were to break out in Palestine, all that would be in jeopardy. Israel would almost certainly have to give up at least some West Bank land. The West and Persian Gulf states might be much less likely to continue funding the West Bank and tolerating its endemic corruption at anything like the same levels. And Hamas would surely have to go back to being a territory-less terrorist group under more or less strict control; possibly even evicted, as their Gaza guests, the Muslim Brotherhood, was from Egypt. Of course a real peace would be of inestimable long-term benefit to all, but the long term is uncertain and far away, and the tangible benefits of stasis are very much here and now. So all sides are likely to continue making non-negotiable demands on the others that they know are impossible to grant.

Forcing them to end their gridlock seems likely only to reduce what leverage the West and the Persian Gulf states have in the situation, and greatly increase the danger of new civil violence and perhaps outright war, so it does not look as though anyone has the stomach to risk upsetting these several apple carts. The likely outcome: Outside powers continue to kick the can further down the road, at Western taxpayers’ expense; Israel’s Barrier will become ever more like a permanent border, de facto if not de jure; Mercedes Benzes in the West Bank will remain in good repair, and the politicians and upper class there will have ever fatter bank accounts safely outside Palestine; and Hamas and its fellow terrorists will continue to scheme about renewed violence and cozening more outside resources for Gaza they can commandeer. Unfortunately, all status quos eventually end; the continued Hamas-Iran presence in Gaza, in particular, makes this status quo both unstable and quite likely to end badly.