May 18, 2011
On our op-ed pages this week, analysts David Makovsky and Barry Rubin disagree on the degree to which we can even consider the possibility for Mideast peace. Rubin takes a dim view of the recent accord between Fatah and Hamas and doubts how Israel can be expected to make peace when its “partner” is in turn partnered with an enemy dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Makovsky believes there is cause for optimism if both sides accept the other’s vision of a nation-state — one Jewish, one Palestinian.
In an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas provides fodder for the pessimists and the optimists.
For the pessimists, his tendentious and selective history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggests he and his movement remain in deep denial about the legitimacy and reality of Israel. In Abbas’ telling, there was never a partition plan calling for a Jewish state and an Arab state. Arab armies didn’t “invade” the fledgling Jewish state, but merely “intervened” to protect Palestinian Arabs. “War and further expulsions ensued,” writes Abbas, as if those wars weren’t instigated by the surrounding Arab armies. Nor does he mention decades of Arab and Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism that turned even Israeli doves into reluctant hawks.
On the plus side, at least Abbas is willing to employ the rhetoric of the two-state solution, seeking the right of Palestinians to “to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland,” a phrase that hints — hints, mind you — of compromise.
Even his formulation regarding the “right of return” — “reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194” — has enough ambiguity to serve as the start of negotiations on the issue.
And yet, should Israel enter into such negotiations, with which Abbas will they be dealing? One whose interpretation of regional history seems to deny Israel its very legitimacy, or the one who imagines a compromise with two states living peaceably side by side? One who condones Hamas’ grim nihilism, or one who embraces the practical nation-building that has been the hallmark of Abbas’ colleague, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad?
Israel, and the world, await clarity.