Ori Nir reports in The Forward that pro-Israel neocon, Malcolm Hoenlein and his Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations “umbrella” group have entered the fray against the Palestinian Prisoner’s Document which seeks Hamas’ acceptance of a two-state solution and an end to terror attacks outside of the Green Line (among other things). Many Palestinians, Israelis and Mideast analysts have welcomed this initiative as a possible breakthrough that might eventually lead to Israeli-Palestinian final status peace negotiations. In this blog, I have attempted to address the Prisoner’s Document cautiously but optimistically as have a number of stories in the Israeli press. I don’t think any of us is oblivious to the difficult road ahead if the Document is to be turned into a long-range plan leading to peace negotiations. There is oh so much that can go wrong. Just look at the events of the last two days as a perfect example of an attempt to derail the Document.
But Hoenlein, apparently fearing that the Document might take on a life of its own in world opinion has taken to the ramparts to do battle against it:
American Jewish organizations are strongly criticizing the document guiding national unity talks between Hamas and Fatah officials…
For Palestinians, observers said, the purpose of hammering out a unified platform is not to trigger talks with Israel. Instead, the negotiations surrounding the document appear aimed at preventing an internal civil war and breaking the financial siege that the international community has imposed on the Palestinian Authority…
“This is not a platform for negotiations with Israel, but for negotiations between Palestinians,” Haim Malka said. Malka is a Middle East expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank…
Several Jewish groups — including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the 52-member umbrella group widely seen as the Jewish community’s main united voice on Middle Eastern affairs — are complaining that the Palestinian document driving the Hamas-Fatah talks has wrongly been described in the media as a “peace plan.”
“Not only is this not a peace plan, but it expresses positions that are much more hard line than the ones believed to be Fatah’s position on issues such as the right of return [of Palestinian refugees] and what they call the right of resistance” to Israel, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference.
The document, Hoenlein told the Forward, could only hinder future negotiations with Palestinian moderates, because it would blur distinctions between them and militants tied to Hamas and to other terrorist groups. “What this would say is that Hamas and Fatah of Abbas have now become the same thing,” Hoenlein said.
Any reasonable observer will note the inanity of much of this poppycock which passes for “analysis.” First, the Prisoner’s Document is clearly meant to lead eventually to “triggering talks with Israel.” Merely stating that the Document is not intended to lead to negotiation is what passes for well-reasoned political argument in the pro-Israel community. Those who suggest there is no intent to lead to negotiation are little more than propagandists and utter fools to boot.
This doesn’t mean that the Document isn’t also meant to break the PA’s international isolation as the above passage indicates. Those two objectives are by no means in conflict nor does one preclude the other. Second, the Document clearly IS a peace plan. Yes, it does contain different provisions than ones previously endorsed by Fatah. But the problem with the Hoenlein view is that it neglects to take into account that Fatah is no longer in power. Hamas for now holds the reins and until now Hamas has not endorsed any of the provisions in the Document.
Further, Hoenlein conveniently neglects to mention a key provision of the Document calling on Hamas to accept previously negotiated agreements (like Oslo) adopted by the PLO. If Hamas signs on to this provision then it will in effect be endorsing precisely those positions which Fatah has endorsed (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, etc.). There goes Hoenlein’s argument out the window!
In other words, the Prisoner’s Document is a complex one which must not be reduced to a few propaganda sound bytes. Those who do, like Hoenlein, will convince no one but their own acolytes of the rightness of their analysis.
One small piece of carping about Nir’s coverage. Certainly, Malcolm Hoenlein and CPMJO’s views on the Prisoner’s Document are important and worth covering. But could he not find any other commentator to provide an alternate view? By not doing so, Nir in effect cedes the field to the mainstream pro-Israel groups allowing readers to believe that the Jewish community speaks with one voice on this issue. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I’m willing to bet that if you polled American Jews providing them with the basic provisions of the Prisoner’s Document and asked whether it was a worthwhile proposal which deserved consideration by Israel–that a majority of us Jews would agree with the proposition. The fact that a majority of the American Jewish fatcat pro-Israel leadership does not, merely indicates how much they exist in their own isolation chamber, a place that is divorced not only from the majority of American Jewry but from Israeli interests as well.
There are Israeli commentators and this blog as well which espouse an alternate view of the Document. Could one of us have not been cited by Nir so as to provide some balance to the article? I’ve written to Nir about this–we’ll see what, if anything, is his response.