Time to bury Palestinian inflexibility

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat sought to undermine the Abraham Accords, all while successfully selling the Israeli left on his image as a peace-loving ideologue. It’s time to do away with the policies he led.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in Jericho on Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Flash90.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in Jericho on Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Flash90.
Daniel Siryoti
Daniel Siryoti

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who died on Monday, was laid to rest in Jericho on Wednesday afternoon, while elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians marked the 16th anniversary of the death of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

Arafat is widely credited for making the Palestinian issue a part of the international community’s agenda, complete with the Palestinian demand that any future state would include eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

It was Arafat who put forward the demand for a just solution for hundreds of thousands of second- and third-generation Palestinian refugees living anywhere in the world, as well as for those living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

One has to wonder whether, under Arafat, the Palestinian leadership would have acted differently following the 1993 Oslo Accords, which Erekat helped outline? Could his leadership have guaranteed the millions of Palestinians living in the territories a comfortable life in an independent state?

Quite a few academics, politicians, military officials and defense experts past and present have tried to answer this question, but it seems that the issue will stand—at least until a just and fair solution is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The recent Abraham Accords can serve as a prism through which the issue can be reviewed as it would be through Palestinian and Arab eyes.

Mere days after the Abraham Accords were inked, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded that the Arab League convene an urgent session and pass a resolution condemning the agreements, which he claimed made no mention of the Palestinian issue.

Arafat expressed similar anger when Egypt signed the peace agreement with Israel in the late 1970s.

The Palestinians also fumed because, in something of a break from policy, Arab rulers did not rush to condemn the Abraham Accords or sympathize with the Palestinian sense of victimhood. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan were not shunned by the Arab League as Egypt was in the wake of the 1979 peace deal.

Moreover, the majority of Arab nations did not protest the deals, nor did they rush to defend the “national Palestinian interest.”

The Palestinian leadership, from Arafat to Abbas, has failed to read the map of regional inserts. Arab states are looking to the future; only the Palestinian issue remains entrenched in the past.

Current Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit tried to allay the Palestinian fury over the League’s indifference, by pointing to the fact that the deal sought to prevent Israel’s plan to extend sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley from taking place.

He suggested that, given the new regional circumstances, the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel, regardless of whether U.S. President Donald Trump is reelected.

The Palestinians refused to listen. Erekat even called on Gheit to resign over his “disgraceful and criminal support of the Abraham Accords.”

So, in fact, the man rushed to an Israeli hospital in critical condition, where doctors fought for his life for more than three weeks, had actively attempted to undermine the Abraham Accords, all while successfully selling the Israeli left on his image as a peace-loving ideologue.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that the Palestinians chose the anniversary of Arafat’s death to bury Erekat—the chief negotiator with Israel.

If the Palestinians truly seek a just, lasting peace—one that would make the Middle East a better place—then they would be wise to bury their obstinacy as well. The continued lack of pragmatism will get them nowhere.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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