The National (Editorial)
November 10, 2009 - 1:00am

It was moving to see a group of Palestinians tear down a section of the separation wall on Monday. They were sending a message to the Israelis: the Palestinians will not disappear just because you can no longer see them. Unfortunately, Israel doesn’t appear to be in the listening mood.

There is perhaps no greater symbol of the current state of the Israel-Palestine conflict than the wall.The wall gives Israelis a false sense of security and peace of mind, leaving little incentive to make the sacrifices needed to forge peace and lasting security. Among the Palestinians hemmed in by a several metres high concrete barrier, there is a growing feeling of helplessness and a belief that there is little that they can do to achieve peace. It is in this climate that Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to step down as president, a move that would throw the peace process into chaos.

If the Israelis are worried, they are certainly not showing it. Certainly, Benjamin Netanyahu shows litle sign that it is even significant. Since it was his refusal to halt settlement construction that drove Mr Abbas to threaten to leave office, this is not particularly surprising. But Mr Netanyahu was not the first prime minister to refuse to budge on settlements. A number of Israeli leaders before him have refused to do so, because it would mean political suicide. But the self-preservation instincts of Israeli politicians harm their nation, the peace process, and would-be peace partners. The more that Israel refuses to budge, the less its potential peace partners are willing to talk so the peace process grinds to a halt.

Of greater concern is the Palestinian Authority (PA). It was intended to be a temporary government that would negotiate and implement Palestinian requirements under the peace process. If Mr Abbas steps down, then there is a high likelihood that the PA will collapse: there are no candidates lining up to take his place to face a hostile Israeli government and a US government demonstrably incapable of pushing the peace process along.

The PA may have fallen well short of its design, but its failure would be catastrophic. More than a decade of diplomatic work would be lost; prior agreements would mean less than they do now; the two-state solution may die and never be revived. But Mr Netanyahu appears to prefer this to a true two-state solution. For him and too many Israelis, an illusory security today is better than securing the future.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017