TOLEDO, SPAIN – The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that began three months ago at Annapolis do not suffer from a lack of ideas about how to address the conflict’s core issues. After years of frustrated attempts to reach a settlement, and with dozens of official and back-channel peace plans at the negotiators’ disposal, there remains little room for creativity in producing an agreement.
But the deeper problem lies elsewhere, in the poverty of the leadership, and in the fragmentation of Palestinian politics. Indeed, the only man who could have made a peace agreement based on a two-state solution legitimate in Palestinians’ eyes, Yasser Arafat, took this legitimacy with him to the grave.
President Mahmoud Abbas was never an inspiring figure for Palestinians. With the loss of Gaza to Hamas, his political clout has been diminished even further. In fact, Abbas does not even control the militias of his own party, Fatah, which have been even more active than Hamas in staging terrorist attacks against Israel. The Palestinian Authority’s rule over the West Bank would have collapsed long ago if it were not for the Israelis’ daily incursions against Hamas and Fatah in areas under Abbas’ control.
Throughout history, nationalist movements, almost invariably consisting of radical and pragmatic wings, had to split in order to reach the Promised Land. Consensus is the negation of leadership and frequently a recipe for political paralysis.