Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Following on Wikileaks, the Palestinian Authority had its own Pallileaks, so called when Al Quezeera published notes of the negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The documents showed that the representatives did what one is supposed to do when negotiating, i.e., make compromises. The trouble, at least as seen by the Palestinian negotiators, was that they actually made some reasonable offers of concessions and, wonder of wonders, acknowledged that the Jews had some legitimate points.
The problem was that they have never tried to bring their people along. They've never tried to condition their people to understand and accept that if they get a state, they will have to recognize that the Jews get a state and that, therefore, four or five million (the few hundred thousand that left in 1948 plus their children, grandchildren, and greatgranchildren) don't "return" to Israel and get it as a state also. They never bothered to tell them that they might have to share Jerusalem in some way. They never told them that perhaps a few Jews will get to live in their new country, just as about a million Arabs live in Israel. And, of course, because there is no free press in the Palestinian territories, and because violence is often used against those who go against the powers-that-be, there has been no open and free discussion regarding the need to make concessions.

So, when the papers were leaked and the dreaded idea that both sides would actually make concessions was revealed, the leaders scrambled to do anything but admit that they had, well, negotiated. They feared that, not having been in on the secrets, the Palestinian man and woman on the streets would feel betrayed and would demand that the bums that negotiated be thrown out. They feared riots and they probably feared for their lives.

The leadership came up with any number of often contradictory explanations: the concessions were denied, the papers were fraudulent, Al Quezeera was out to get them, it was a Zionist conspiracy (that's an old favorite that you always throw in), they didn't mean it, etc. etc.

Well, a funny thing has happened. The people appear to be more reasonable and accepting of reality than their leadership anticipated. Or, at least no one is upset enough to jeopardize the booming West Bank economy and the fact that, as violence subsides, Israel increasingly lowers its presence in Palestinian areas. No one has been assassinated, at least not yet. There have not been riots and demands for resignations. Now, these things could happen. But if they do it will not be because of the secrets revealed in Pallileaks. It will be because the Palestinian people are as fed up with the undemocratic, corrupt governments of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza as are other Arab people in their countries.

So, now that they know the world will not be turned upside down if they actually compromise on some of the key issues, perhaps the Palestinian leadership will drop their preconditions, drop their counterproductive efforts to use the UN to avoid difficult negotiations, come back to the negotiating table, and hammer out the deal that will bring about an independent state. And perhaps they should join with what I hope will become a trend in the Arab world: allow free and open discussion of their intentions and positions.

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