A left-leaning relative of mine who is now in Israel expressed approval for extra-governmental Israeli negotiations with Palestinian Authority cutouts in Geneva. I responded by arguing that these negotiations are destructive to Israel’s interests: the people pursuing them on Israel’s behalf, and their policies, were rejected by the Israeli electorate and are thus not representative of Israeli opinion; it’s inappropriate, and should be illegal (as in the U.S.), for such people to run their own foreign policy; and any such division among the parties on one side of a negotiation must weaken that side relative to a united opponent. My arguments, needless to say, did not go over well. While my points were obvious to me they do not seem to be appreciated by Israeli advocates of negotiation-as-a-principle. (Of course Arafat, too, favors these negotiations. Why wouldn’t he? He benefits by dividing and weakening Israelis and keeping alive ideas that have proved disastrous for Israel on multiple occasions. The continued failure of the Israeli Left to understand that Arafat is an enemy, and that his approval of a policy proposal is a prima facie indicator that that proposal is bad for Israel, is mind boggling.)
(And U.S. support for these negotiations is shameful, because we are undermining one of our most reliable allies, and foolish, because it appears that we are a faithless patron — you can bet Iraqis and Iranians notice this — and are easily maneuvered into buying off enemies.)
Maybe the Israeli government should start negotiating publicly with Palestinian enemies of the Arafat regime. Of course Arafat is no fool and has already killed or intimidated most of these people. But still, this whole affair makes me wonder why the Israeli Left is always trying so hard to undermine its own side instead of the enemy. Wouldn’t it make sense, if peace really is the goal and negotiating with Arafat hasn’t brought it, to at least say that you favor negotiating with new Palestinian faces? Why not?
But the Israeli Left doesn’t see it that way, and I suspect the reason is that for Israeli leftists weakening the Israeli Right is almost as important, if not as important, as reaching a livable accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs. Arafat understands this political dynamic and exploits it effectively.