It is in the interests of pretty much everyone to pretend there is a real chance for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and that there is progress. The reality is deadlock, with the Palestinian leadership incapable of making a treaty to end the conflict. Mahmoud Abbas’s strategy seeks to reconcile radical rivals rather than fulfill commitments or make peace with Israel. To avoid antagonizing them, he has no intention of confiscating terrorists’ arms, stopping anti-Israel incitement, burying the goal of eliminating Israel forever, or pressing too hard to stop attacks on Israel.
Abbas will probably not establish a stable government in the Gaza Strip after Israel’s withdrawal. Nor will he crack down on corruption, suppress the gunmen creating anarchy in Palestinian towns, or really gain control over security forces. Even if Abbas “wins” the next election, a blocking majority of Hamas, Islamists, leftists, and Fatah militants will intimidate him against making the steps needed for peace or to meet his commitments. The U.S. government wants to show that it is doing everything possible to resolve the conflict. In fact, that is true since the failure to progress is due to Palestinian intransigence, the Arab states’ refusal to help, and a European policy that encourages these. In sharp contrast to Europe, American leaders are in no hurry to get to final negotiations. They know Abbas cannot deliver and fear trying to achieve a peace agreement will produce another total breakdown, as happened in 2000. The Palestinians’ suffering remains overwhelmingly self-inflicted. And as long as they have no government to stop anarchy and terrorism while developing a real strategy to achieve peace, they will have to content themselves with favorable media stories and European pronouncements that have no effect on the material situation.