Why are the Palestinians participating in yet another round of American-sponsored peace talks with Israel? It’s mostly about money. This round was forced on the Israelis and Palestinians by the U.S., which threatened to withhold aid (1.3 billion a year to Israel and about half as much to the Palestinians) if the two did not at least go through the motions. Many knowledgeable observers see another round of talks as pointless. Arabs and Palestinians have not changed their “kill all Jews” attitudes towards Israel and the Israelis have still not agreed to just disappear. Because of the continued Arab intransigence over Israel, opinion polls show that most Israelis are opposed to any peace deal with the Palestinians that involves withdrawing Jews from the West Bank or Jerusalem and believe the peace talks will fail.
The Americans want the talks for domestic political reasons. The Israelis don’t mind having another opportunity to force the Palestinians to admit all their hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. The Palestinians don’t care about that because they are in big trouble. The current Fatah leadership (Hamas, which runs Gaza, is not participating) is in a desperate situation. Fatah is committed to pushing for “statehood” in the UN, but has been told by the U.S. that such a move will mean withdrawal of $600 million a year in American aid. Israel said it will withhold $100 million a year in customs taxes it collects for Fatah. Backing away from the UN statehood effort would be very embarrassing. The “peace talks” provide a credible excuse to back off.
Given the heat Fatah has been taking from Palestinians over more than a decade of increasing corruption and poverty, losing $700 million a year in aid would put Fatah out of power and probably out of business. So Fatah will go through the motions to calm down the Americans and Israelis while a new strategy is developed and sold to Palestinians. The current one got going in 2000, when Fatah turned down the best peace deal it was probably ever going to get (and would probably accept today) because the Palestinian radicals threatened civil war if Fatah took the Israeli offer. In retrospect that was a hollow threat, but at the time it seemed a good idea to turn down the peace offer and start a terrorist campaign against Israel. That failed and was largely defeated by 2005. But it all made the Palestinian radicals stronger and too many Palestinians unemployed, broke, and angry. It also allowed Islamic radical group Hamas to take control of Gaza, where 40 percent of Palestinians lived. To make matters worse, the great Palestinian patron Saddam Hussein lost power, and his life, cutting off another source of cash. Palestinian children are still taught to honor and praise Saddam, which has become something of a media liability. Other Arab allies have become less supportive and more insistent that the Palestinians make peace with Israel and stop being professional victims and career beggars.
Israel has also developed more problems with the Palestinians since 2000. There is no consensus in Israel on how to deal with the dual assaults by Moslems (especially Arabs and Iran) who openly call for the destruction of Israel and increasingly influential European leftists and anti-Semites who (for different reasons) want Israel diminished or destroyed. The European leftists are gaining allies throughout the West, including among leftist politicians in the United States. The founding of Israel in 1947 is turning into another example of “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have been suffering defeats for over 60 years. Yet in some sense they know they appear to have had some successes. For example, by taking some advice from their former Soviet patrons, the Palestinians reformed their educational system over the last few decades to create an alternate reality for generations of children who experienced it. In this fantasy world Israel does not exist. Oh, Israel is there for all to see, but in Palestinian schools the maps of the area do not show Israel. The Israelis are depicted as bad people, who steal from the virtuous Palestinians and are assisted by other evil people, like the United States. Everything bad that happens, including the rampant corruption of Palestinian politicians, is blamed on Israel. At the same time, Palestinian terrorists who have killed Israeli women and children are hailed as heroes and children are encouraged to be terrorists, especially suicidal ones. It’s not just the terrorists who get this treatment. Yasser Arafat, who led the effort to create the Palestine people and the fantasy Palestine taught in schools, died of apparent natural causes in 2004. That was accepted for a while but now Palestinian children are being taught that Arafat was poisoned by Israelis.
Palestinian media, both Fatah and Hamas controlled, occasionally undertake similar media campaigns to arouse popular anger against a specific Israeli conspiracy. One that gets used periodically is the charge that Israel plans to destroy the al Aqsa mosque. The problem here is that there have never been any Israeli plans to destroy al Aqsa. But Palestinian media managers know that the public has a poor memory and can be fed the same lie periodically and convincingly.
The al Aqsa complex is built on the site of two Jewish temples. The last one was destroyed by the Romans nearly two thousand years ago. Israel has always provided security for al Aqsa, but the Palestinians find it convenient to keep alive unfounded fears that Israel will, at any moment, destroy al Aqsa and rebuild their temple. This is what some religious extremists (Jewish and Christian) want and one reason for the tight Israeli security around al Aqsa (which is otherwise controlled by Moslem religious authorities). This fear mongering is a big deal among the Palestinians but generally ignored, or simply unknown, outside Israel.
The numerous al Aqsa scare stories in the Palestinian media (replete with cartoons straight out of similar 1930s Nazi propaganda) are rarely recognized as a reason why Israel and the Palestinians cannot negotiate a peace deal. The basic problem is that, for the last two generations, it has been Palestinian policy to teach their children, and anyone that will listen to these Arab language screeds, that Israel has no right to exist. The kids get indoctrinated with anti-Semitic propaganda at a young age and as adults they continue to be bombarded by anti-Semitic propaganda.
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 few Jews in Israel see any chance of real peace with the Palestinians, given the current attitudes within the Palestinian community.
That’s because Palestinian attitudes towards the non-existence of Israel goes beyond teaching their kids that Israel doesn’t even exist. The children are taught that what the rest of the world calls Israel is really just a bunch of Zionists illegally occupying Arab land. While Arabs love to call Israelis "Nazis," it is the Arab world that is the true heir to the Adolph Hitler's vision of how the world should be. A major weapon in the Palestinian arsenal is anti-Semitism. For a long time, even before World War II, the racial hatred tactic was particularly popular in the Arab world. This was partly the result of Islamic radicalism, which pushed hatred of all non-Moslems, not just Jews. But as more Jews began moving into Jerusalem and surrounding areas in the late 19th century, more of the Moslem racial animosity was directed at Jews.
This was not the usual ethnic animosity found in Europe but something more in line with the extreme violence of the Nazis. In fact, during World War II, the Nazis were very popular in the Arab world (and still are). The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (the highest Islamic official in the area) spent the war in Berlin (to avoid arrest by the British). Iraq, which had become independent during the 1930s, declared itself a German ally in 1941 (and was promptly invaded and re-conquered by three British divisions, before the Germans could get many troops into the territory of their new ally). After World War II, the Arab language media continued Nazi-grade anti-Semitism. The Arabs had enough sense to tone down this race hatred, and pro-Nazi, line in their non-Arab language media.
Over the last few decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War, many Westerners have adopted the anti-Semitic angle in denouncing Israeli attempts to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. Such self-defense measures are now seriously discussed as "war crimes" in the West. To the Arabs, the very existence of Israel is a "war crime," but the Arabs have been unable to do much beyond fanaticizing about destroying Israel and teaching a new generation that even the historical facts of Jews in the Middle East are lies. Now they have many political activists and progressive thinkers in the West fanaticizing along with them. Tangible gains from this ethnic hatred strategy have been scant so far. Many in the West are appalled by it, and the leadership in most Western nations does not buy into it. But much of the popular media does and incidents of anti-Semitism, including assault and murder, are on the increase in Europe. Arabs see their anti-Semitism strategy as a success, as Arabs tend to take solace in symbolism, given their lack of substantial progress in destroying Israel. So every anti-Semitic attack in Europe is a victory, as is every European politician who denounces Israel for non-existent war crimes, or ignores the very real atrocities that the Arabs commit against each other. To many Arabs, living the fantasy is easier than dealing with reality.
The Palestinians believe that time, and God, are on their side. Meanwhile, they use negotiations to gain whatever small advantages they can. The ultimate goal, as is plainly displayed on official Palestinian web sites and official documents, is the expulsion of all Jews from what the United Nations erroneously calls “Israel.” While not all Palestinian students believe the lies, enough do to keep the others quiet or succeeding in fleeing to the West. Now the leaders of Fatah may be trying to get out themselves and not just send their families overseas (as they have been doing for decades).