Saeb Erekat's resignation telling evidence of Palestinian rejectionism

Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator who doubled as chief propaganda minister under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, has submitted his resignation in the wake of Al Jazeera's disclosure of some 1,600 documents about concessions the Palestinian side was considering in talks with Israeli leaders.

If you believe Erekat, he decided to call it quits to set an example of accountability to his people.  Because the documents were leaked from his office, Erekat said he decided to fall on his sword and "pay the price for my negligence," he told the Washington Post's Joel Greenberg  ("Palestinian Erekat says he quit to set example of accountability -- Leak of  documents on '08 talks with Israel happened on his watch",  Feb. 16, page A10).

Don't you believe it.  The real reason Erekat felt it necessary to step down is that Al Jazeera set off a firestorm on the Palestinian "street"  by disclosing that the Palestinian side might curtail the "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and also that Israel might retain some Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.  Any such Palestinian negotiating concessions had become untenable once they saw the light of day.

If Abbas and Erekat were genuinely interested in a two-state peace deal, they would have done what Israeli leaders have done since the start of the Oslo peace process in 1993 -- prepare their publics for painful concessions.  Whether under Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert or now under Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli governments repeatedly have gone public with how far they would go -- and how much they would give up -- to reach a peace agreement.  And for their part, rank-and-file Israelis have come to accept and support a realistic compromise, however painful.

Not so the Palestinian side.  Just the opposite.  While Erekat was signaling some flexibility in private talks with Israeli negotiators, Abbas has been grooming new generations of Palestinians to cling to the dream of a Greater Palestine.  Palestinian Authority TV shows for children teach their young audience that Palestine will include Haifa, Tel Aviv and every other major Israeli population center.  And Abbas just as frequently glorifies Palestinian suicide bombers in their quest to wipe Israel off the map.

In sharp contrast to the stance of Israeli leaders who harmonize private negotiating positions with public pronouncements, Abbas and Erekat did just the opposite.  They kept any hint of concessions in secret , while sticking in public to their maximalist demands, including all of East Jerusalem with its Old City and a full "right of return."

The Al-Jazeera disclosures shattered this two-faced Palestinian strategy of saying one thing in private and the opposite in public.  And that's what made Erekat's position as chief negotiator no longer tenable.  The reaction of the Palestinian "street"  -- not just Hamas which promptly labeled Abbas and Erekat as traitors to the Palestinian cause -- was so fierce as to make it evident that Palestinians and their leaders are not ready for Palestine in any conceivable peace agreement.

Erekat has been a supremely adept propagandist who became the darling of Western reporters eager to be fed sharp anti-Israel zingers,  In his interview with the Post, he tries mightily to peddle his latest propaganda line -- that he's resigning for high motives of personal accountability, not for floating possible compromises in talks with Israeli negotiators.  But a realistic compromise is exactly what Palestinians have not been prepared for by Arafat and Abbas during the last two decades.

And it's this total Palestinian disconnect between the give-and-take in private negotiations and the public utterances of the leadership that finally came back to bite Erekat and his boss, Mahmoud Abbas.
Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator who doubled as chief propaganda minister under both Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, has submitted his resignation in the wake of Al Jazeera's disclosure of some 1,600 documents about concessions the Palestinian side was considering in talks with Israeli leaders.

If you believe Erekat, he decided to call it quits to set an example of accountability to his people.  Because the documents were leaked from his office, Erekat said he decided to fall on his sword and "pay the price for my negligence," he told the Washington Post's Joel Greenberg  ("Palestinian Erekat says he quit to set example of accountability -- Leak of  documents on '08 talks with Israel happened on his watch",  Feb. 16, page A10).

Don't you believe it.  The real reason Erekat felt it necessary to step down is that Al Jazeera set off a firestorm on the Palestinian "street"  by disclosing that the Palestinian side might curtail the "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and also that Israel might retain some Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.  Any such Palestinian negotiating concessions had become untenable once they saw the light of day.

If Abbas and Erekat were genuinely interested in a two-state peace deal, they would have done what Israeli leaders have done since the start of the Oslo peace process in 1993 -- prepare their publics for painful concessions.  Whether under Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert or now under Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli governments repeatedly have gone public with how far they would go -- and how much they would give up -- to reach a peace agreement.  And for their part, rank-and-file Israelis have come to accept and support a realistic compromise, however painful.

Not so the Palestinian side.  Just the opposite.  While Erekat was signaling some flexibility in private talks with Israeli negotiators, Abbas has been grooming new generations of Palestinians to cling to the dream of a Greater Palestine.  Palestinian Authority TV shows for children teach their young audience that Palestine will include Haifa, Tel Aviv and every other major Israeli population center.  And Abbas just as frequently glorifies Palestinian suicide bombers in their quest to wipe Israel off the map.

In sharp contrast to the stance of Israeli leaders who harmonize private negotiating positions with public pronouncements, Abbas and Erekat did just the opposite.  They kept any hint of concessions in secret , while sticking in public to their maximalist demands, including all of East Jerusalem with its Old City and a full "right of return."

The Al-Jazeera disclosures shattered this two-faced Palestinian strategy of saying one thing in private and the opposite in public.  And that's what made Erekat's position as chief negotiator no longer tenable.  The reaction of the Palestinian "street"  -- not just Hamas which promptly labeled Abbas and Erekat as traitors to the Palestinian cause -- was so fierce as to make it evident that Palestinians and their leaders are not ready for Palestine in any conceivable peace agreement.

Erekat has been a supremely adept propagandist who became the darling of Western reporters eager to be fed sharp anti-Israel zingers,  In his interview with the Post, he tries mightily to peddle his latest propaganda line -- that he's resigning for high motives of personal accountability, not for floating possible compromises in talks with Israeli negotiators.  But a realistic compromise is exactly what Palestinians have not been prepared for by Arafat and Abbas during the last two decades.

And it's this total Palestinian disconnect between the give-and-take in private negotiations and the public utterances of the leadership that finally came back to bite Erekat and his boss, Mahmoud Abbas.

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