Palestinian Peacemakers?

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 30, 2010

(by Gabriel Latner, AmericanThinker.com) – With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks set to resume, the Palestinian delegation is center-stage. But who are these men who hold the fate of Middle-Eastern peace in their hands?

Saeb Erekat, the white-haired don of Palestinian diplomacy, is a fixture on Al-Jazeera and other Arabic television stations. Erekat has a proven record of saying one thing in English for international consumption [intended for a particular group of people] and quite another in Arabic. Mr. Erekat is hardly alone in this, as [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas calls himself a partner for peace, while telling Palestinians that “Israel does not want peace” and that the Palestine Liberation Organization will not make “even one concession” to it.

At the close of the Camp David summit in 2000, Erekat argued that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, of which the Western Wall is the last surviving piece, is a Jewish myth. Erekat exaggerates and exploits Israel’s sins for political gain. In 2002, he accused Israel of killing “more than 500 people” in Jenin, when in fact, there were 54 Palestinian casualties.

Nabil Shaath, the bald, bespectacled ex-professor, is the Western face of the PLO. With doctorates in economics and law from the University of Pennsylvania, Shaath knows how to negotiate and has been a key player in the peace process for ages. A former cabinet minister in the PLO, he served as its first foreign minister and headed its delegation to the United Nations. …..

…Recently, on September 3, the day after peace talks began in Washington, Shaath promised that “the Palestinian Authority will never recognize Israel as a Jewish State.”

Yasser Abed Rabbo was a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an extremist militia, in 1968, when it hijacked an El Al flight from Rome, taking the passengers hostage. In 1969, Abed Rabbo left the PFLP and formed the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a Maoist militia which he helped lead until 1991. DFLP’s activities in this period included killing 25 men, women, and children in the Israeli town of Ma’alot; sending a wagon bomb into Jerusalem, killing seven; and attacking an Israeli home, murdering four.

After 1991, Abed Rabbo became a staunch ally of Yasser Arafat and left DFLP, voicing support for the peace process and condemning suicide bombings during the Al-Aqsa intifada. Like Erekat, Abed Rabbo accused Israel of a massacre in Jenin, claiming the army buried nine hundred Palestinians in mass graves.

Muhammed Shtayyeh has demonstrated an ardent desire for peace and a willingness to compromise for the good of the Palestinian people. Shtayyeh is the Minister of Public Works, founded the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, and is a trustee of “Middle East for Non-Violence and Democracy,” which seeks to keep Palestinian youth from engaging in violence and terrorism.

Sadly, Shtayyeh and other Palestinian moderates are outnumbered. All the delegates are either long-serving members of Fatah or devoted to Abbas. These talks are supposed to be between Israel and the Palestinians — not Israel and Fatah. We cannot ignore that Fatah controls only the West Bank and is at war with Hamas. Akram Haniyeh, another delegate, is the founder and editor of Palestine’s second-largest paper, Al Ayyam, which has constantly run editorials and cartoons critical of Hamas and was banned in Gaza. How can these delegates, all with acrimonious relationships with the Gazans, possibly get them to agree to a peace deal?

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, official spokesman for Chairman Arafat and now President Abbas, makes no secret of his feelings about peace — at least not while speaking to Al-Jazeera in March: “We are ready for any Arab option. If they want to go to war, let them declare that and mobilize their armies and their people, and we will follow suit.”

And what of [Palestinian] President Abbas, the leader upon whom both Presidents Bush and Obama have pinned their hopes for peace? His doctoral thesis, entitled “Relations Between Zionism and Nazism,” refers to the Holocaust as “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed.”

Abbas remarked in July that he “will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land.” That statement is ambiguous [having more than one possible meaning, sometimes intentionally] at best.

With peacemakers like these, it’s anybody’s guess how talks can result in a Palestinian state that coexists peacefully with Israel.

Gabriel Latner is a law student at the University of Cambridge and an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  Visit the website at defenddemocracy.org.

This article was first posted at AmericanThinker.com on September 28, 2010.   Reprinted here September 30, 2010 for educational purposes only.

Questions

1. The six Palestinian delegates taking part in peace talks with Israel are:

  • Saeb Erekat
  • Nabil Shaath
  • Yasser Abed Rabbo
  • Muhammed Shtayyeh
  • Nabil Abu Rudaineh
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

List the comments/actions made about or done to Israel by each of the men listed above (except for Muhammed Shtayyeh).

2. How does Mr. Shtayyeh’s view for establishing peace with Israel differ from the other five men mentioned, according to commentator Gabriel Latner?

3. Read the “Background” below the questions. What is the problem with establishing a peace agreement with Fatah only?

4. In addition to the problems listed above, the Palestinians say they will not negotiate peace until Israel permanently stops building within Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Israel says they will not negotiate a deal until the Palestinians stop shooting missiles into Israel. After meeting at the White House in the beginning of September, Palistinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to meet every two weeks or so and to try to finish the negotiations within a year. The White House’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell, when asked how this peace process was different from others in the past, said: “Our view is this is an effort that will try to learn from the lessons of the past, take the best and bring them forward, but not be bound by any label or category or previous process.”
a) Do you share Mr. Mitchell’s optimism? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a grandparent the same question.


Background

THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY’S RULING POLITICAL PARTIES:
The Palestinian Authority is currently ruled by two parties, Fatah and Hamas. Hamas holds the majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament and the office of Prime Minister.  Fatah holds a minority of seats in the Parliament, and the office of President.

Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority from its establishment in 1994 until 2006. [Yasser Arafat was the head of Fatah until his death in 2004.]  Fatah is a major secular Palestinian political party…. In Palestinian politics it is on the center-left of the spectrum. ….. [Since its loss in 2006 as the ruling party] it has … been described oftentimes in the media as the more “moderate” party, although many dispute this due to its past actions and current policies. (from Wikipedia.org)

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that currently (since January 2006) forms the majority party of the Palestinian Authority.… Hamas is known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against Israeli civilians, as well as military and security forces targets. Hamas’ charter…calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. …………..In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections….  Many [Palestinians] perceived the preceding Fatah government as corrupt and ineffective…  Since Hamas has taken control, the Palestinian territories have experienced a period of sharp internal conflicts, known as Fauda (anarchy), in which many Palestinians have been killed in internecine fighting. (from Wikipedia.org)

Resources

Click here for a map of Israel (including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.)

For information on Hamas, visit the Council on Foreign Relations website at cfr.org/publication/8968/hamas.html.