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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Today the Palestinians are holding leadership elections. Hopefully this will give them a chance to put the negative legacy of the Arafat years behind them.
I want to focus on only one aspect that is very important for an Israeli-Palestinian peace: anti-Israel rejectionism. While it’s understandable under the conditions that many Palestinians harbour animus against Israel, there is no reason why these resentments should be supported and strengthened by politicians, both Palestinian and foreign. This is deeply destructive and makes the route to peace unnecessarily harder than it would be already.
Above all -and this counts mainly for many Western observers- it rests on a non-sense, namely that all would be well in the region if it weren’t for Israel. In the current edition of Foreign Policy this notion is debunked by Josef Joffe:

It won’t do to lay the democracy and development deficits of the Arab world on the doorstep of the Jewish state. Israel is a pretext, not a cause, and therefore its dispatch will not heal the self-inflicted wounds of the Arab-Islamic world. Nor will the mild version of “statocide,” a binational state, do the trick—not in view of the “civilization of clashes” (to borrow a term from British historian Niall Ferguson) that is the hallmark of Arab political culture. The mortal struggle between Israelis and Palestinians would simply shift from the outside to the inside.

Accepting this is one first step the Palestinians will have to take in building a new politics, a politics that will make co-existence with Israel easier or in fact possible at all.
Of course this is a message that all outsiders must also keep at the forefront of thinking about the problems, in order to have realistic expectations about what can be achieved in a wider geopolitical context by an Israeli-Palestinian peace. (Sadly probably not all too much, as Amir Taheri noted quite recently.)
My hope is however that this will at least give the Palestinians a step forward, they certainly need some peace and have suffered enough in the past years and that will be good in itself.

PS: If your German’s up to scratch there’s an article in the Zeit, the German weekly Joffe edits, on the upcoming Palestinian elections that makes for fairly upbeat reading. I hope the author’s right that this could bring about a turning about for the Palestinians.
PPS: Just reread above post. Apologies for the muddledness of it, I'm not entirely sure what I was trying to say myself anymore.

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