Two states for two peoples has always been the stated goal of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, but the divisions among the Palestinians themselves sound more like two states for three peoples, or maybe four—if Israel is even included. While the Palestinian Authority (PA) has expressed support for the French push to revive a peace process, two of the other major Palestinian factions, which happen to also be terror groups, have made it clear the PA isn’t speaking for them.
The Ma’an News Agency reported that Hamas declared that the French proposal is a distraction and claimed the support by the PA is actually just on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and not the Palestinians themselves. The report said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took it even further, calling for open protests and “mass struggle” to “confront and bring down” the French plan—both in Israel and abroad. While the Palestinians were contradicting themselves, Israel was putting forth a united front backing elements of an older, more traditional peace plan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long expressed concerns that the French proposal will apply inappropriate pressure or prejudice the negotiations to the extent that the Palestinians won’t talk in good faith. However, he has repeatedly made it clear he is up for meeting Abbas face-to-face, and on Monday said he would even endorse an updated version of the Arab Peace Initiative.
“I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab peace initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”
Israel’s new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, expressed a similar perspective in the press release. He and Netanyahu endorsed the recent call for peace from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
“I think that President al-Sisi’s speech was very important and has created a genuine opportunity. We must try to pick up the gauntlet,” said Lieberman. “I absolutely agree that the Arab [Peace] Initiative also has some very, very positive elements that enable a serious dialogue with all our neighbors in the region.”
The contrast in tones between Israel and the alternative Palestinian factions was noticeable. This is even more so because both groups believe the French initiative won’t go far enough to meet their demands, while Israel was supporting elements of an Arab plan. And if the Palestinians can’t agree on what they want, it’s unclear how Israel can reach agreement with them either.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 30, 2016)