Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Massive Gap between Private Pragmatism and Public Rejectionism in Palestinian Society

From our friends at Beyond Images comes an excellent analysis of the Palestinian society at large in relation to its preparedness for a peace agreement with Israel

According to the Palestine Papers, PA negotiators were privately willing to accept that Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem (apart from Maale Adumim) could stay in place as part of a two-state solution.

Yet, to the world at large, those self-same negotiators and their supporters worldwide ceaselessly condemn those suburbs as "illegal settlements in occupied Arab East Jerusalem".

According to the Palestine Papers, PA negotiators privately explored only very limited 'rights of return' for Palestinian refugees into Israel. Yet, to the world at large, those self-same Palestinian negotiators ceaselessly proclaim the 'right of return' of all Palestinian people into Israel under UN Resolution 194 and are not willing to consider any compromise on this "inalienable right".

The fact that Palestinian negotiators were privately willing to consider compromise solutions in these areas is not news. To people who have followed the negotiations closely, this has been known for 10 years. But the Palestine Papers reveal the massive gap between private pragmatism and public rejectionism in Palestinian society.

Palestinian negotiators who considered those compromises are frantically denying having made them. They are claiming that they have been falsely accused by al-Jazeera. And they are claiming that they strongly uphold Palestinian rights, and the papers have been tampered with, or taken completely out of context.

Many commentators argue that the Palestine Papers show that the Israelis have a partner for peace. This is too simplistic. All they show is that in private, some 'moderate' Palestinians have begun to realise they must be pragmatic, not ideological. But what they really show is that Palestinian society has not publicly begun to absorb or internalise the changes which will be needed for practical coexistence.

Herb Keinon, diplomatic editor of the Jerusalem Post, points out that the Palestinian reaction "on the street" in the West Bank has been muted (Jerusalem Post, Friday 28 January). He sees this as a glimmer of hope - maybe the people out of sheer weariness with conflict, realise that the behind-the-scenes compromises their negotiators explored are indeed the only way forward. But this is a glimmer of hope, at best.

Key message: Palestinians may be weary of conflict. But they are not ready for the changes in public attitude which will be needed to for a two-state solution to become a reality. Private pragmatism needs to become publicly mainstream for peace to have any chance at all.

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