January 28, 2011: There's been another leak of secret diplomatic documents, and this time it involves the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Actually, the talks only involved the Palestinians in the West Bank (run by the Fatah party as head of the Palestinian Authority.) The documents were leaked to al Jazeera, an Arab language satellite TV news outlet that tends to favor Hamas (which controls the Gaza Palestinians), and condemn Fatah as corrupt (which is true, and why the Islamic radicals of Hamas won control of Gaza). The leaked documents proved very damaging to Fatah, because they detail Palestinian negotiators offering things that Palestinian media propaganda (in Gaza and the West Bank) have always declared off limits. The leaked documents show the Palestinians actually trying to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. This is something that Palestinian propaganda has always stressed would never happen. It's no secret to anyone who speaks Arabic and views Arab language web pages and especially Palestinian TV. This is the sort of thing Arab media, like al Jazeera, favor, because it's exciting and entertains, and attracts, more viewers. It's a variation on the old journalistic rule that, "if it bleeds it leads." Real peace talks are like trying to attract an audience by broadcasting city council meetings. Terrorism, however, always gets peoples attention. That's what Hamas is all about, and Fatah is disgraced now that they have been exposed as secretly trying to do something useful. Oh, the shame.
Meanwhile, the open secret in the Arab world is that no true Palestinian wants anything to do with peace talks. For example, last year, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon described the goals of the current peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel as a stage in the process by which Israel would be portrayed as an illegitimate state by the West. The Palestinians compare this process to the one that isolated South Africa. The official Palestinian objective is not to make peace with Israel, but to destroy Israel and drive all Jews from the Middle East. This sort of thing is reported regularly in the Arab language press, much less so in the non-Arabic version of Arab media.
But after much cajoling by Western nations, and promises of generous bribes, one of the two Palestinian factions (Fatah, in the West Bank) agreed to resume face-to-face peace talks with Israel. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas got his key allies (mainly those on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization) to go along with this only because he promised to get Israel to halt the construction of new settlements in the West Bank for as long as the talks last.
The official goal of the peace talks is to work how to establish an independent Palestinian state. Israel agrees with that goal, but the Palestinians don't, at least among themselves. That's why these peace talks tend to go nowhere. The latest talks are doomed by the fact that many Palestinians in the West Bank openly oppose them, and the Islamic radical group Hamas, that runs the Gaza Strip (which contains 40 percent of Palestinians) refuse to cooperate in the talks at all. Hamas and Fatah controlled media both talk of destroying Israel, not making permanent peace. Any peace deals are strictly tactical moves, to further the ultimate goal of wiping Israel off the map. All Palestinian maps of the area already do that.
For the last two generations, it has been Palestinian policy to preach the destruction of Israel, not coexistence. Increasingly, over the last few decades, Palestinians have been indoctrinated with anti-Semitic propaganda, which encourages the young to become suicide bombers and terrorists. This is a very public campaign, and the terrorist killers are showered with praise in the media. In the Palestinian territories, there are hundreds of places (streets, squares, buildings) and events named after terrorists. Anyone who has killed an Israeli is a hero, and anyone who died trying is worthy of admiration. This goes beyond honoring "war heroes." The propaganda campaign portrays Palestinians as in a life-or-death struggle with "the Zionist entity" (what Palestinians like to call Israel). Since God is on their side, the Palestinian propaganda pushes the idea that it's only a matter of time before Israel is destroyed. It's tough to negotiate a peace deal when one side has this attitude.
Thus most Palestinians (unless they were educated outside of the Middle East) take it for granted that any peace deal with Israel is just a tactical move in the effort to eventually destroy Israel and drive all Jews from the Middle East. People outside the Middle East have a hard time comprehending this attitude. But it is very real, and can be seen on Palestinian web sites (not so much on the non-Arabic language ones, although even there the anti-Semitic line is leaking through more and more). Israel goes through the motions of negotiating, to keep its Western allies and trading partners happy, but many Jews in Israel don't see much chance of real peace with the Palestinians, given the current attitudes within the Palestinian community.