The Obama administration and European governments who hold out hope that the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap could revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are likely deluding themselves, the Washington Post editorialized Friday.
Both Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas "celebrated the returning murderers and would-be suicide bombers as heroes," the Post noted. Abbas, who is supposed to be Israel's partner in peace negotiations, hailed the liberated terrorists as "freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland."
Abbas also called for the release of more terrorists in the future, including Marwan Barghouti, sentenced to five life terms plus 40 years for the murders of five Israelis, and Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Abbas (who in 2008 rejected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer to cede land equal to 100 percent of the West Bank for a Palestinian state) said he wants current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make good on a promise Olmert made during those negotiations: to release even more imprisoned radicals if Schalit came home.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority appears poised to reject the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel. Earlier this month, Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations "without delay," but PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Thursday that that wasn't likely to happen. "Conditions are not ripe at this time for a meaningful resumption of talks," he said.
And at the United Nations, PA diplomats continue working to win the trappings of statehood without negotiating a peace settlement with Israel. Abbas needs the support of nine of the 15 Security Council members when that body votes Nov. 11 on the PA's application for U.N. membership. As one of the five permanent Security Council members, the United States has said it will exercise its veto of a unilateral PA push for U.N. recognition.
According to Israeli analyst Barry Rubin, the PA behaves this way – opposing any serious security guarantees for Israel, blocking limits on Palestinian refugees returning to Israel, and refusing to agree that a peace settlement means an end to the conflict – because it realizes that when negotiations reach an impasse, the West will blame Israel and demand that it make more concessions.
Rubin says Washington should respond to this intransigence by telling Abbas and the PA: "Since we have lots of other things to do, we'll do them. Good luck, and if you ever change your mind and get serious about peace, you have our phone number."
Read the op-ed here.