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The Peace Process Is Like a Doornail

Meet the new problems, same as the old problems

Marc Tracy
December 02, 2011
Prime Minister Fayyad (L) and President Abbas (C) last month.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Fayyad (L) and President Abbas (C) last month.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s the Christmas season, so let’s begin this way: the peace process is as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that the peace process is as dead as a door-nail.

The latest sign of its demise was Prime Minister Fayyad’s statement, which was of the obvious, that he will not remain head of government once that government is joined by Hamas. Fayyad is only able to head Fatah’s government by virtue of his rapport with its Western sponsors, and President Abbas’ recognition of his utility in that respect; once Hamas joins the government, there is no way he will hang on. (It’s also notable that with the U.N. moves stalled—the Palestinians are now members of UNESCO, but nothing else, and have been effectively stonewalled at the Security Council—it’s not just the peace process but also Fayyadism that is dead.)

All this is moot if Hamas doesn’t ever join the government. Unity has ostensibly been agreed to, with joint elections tentatively scheduled for next May. But if the past is prologue, elections won’t be held by May. The two sides can’t seem to agree even on whether there will be a unity government in the meantime. And the internecine swiping has begun, with a senior Hamas official accusing President Abbas of not really wanting a unity government.

It should be noted that the obvious lack of unity makes it easier for the Israeli government to continue to insist—not without validity, but it’s not like they’ve proposed any creative alternatives, either—that there is really nothing to be done. In compliance with the Quartet’s timeline, the Palestinian Authority actually submitted a peace proposal. As far as opening positions go, it sounds not bad: borders based on the Green Line but with two percent of the West Bank land swapped; a largely demilitarized West Bank; and permission for Israel to maintain a force along the Jordan River. It is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s turn to respond—and he hasn’t and says he won’t, not unless he gets direct negotiations, which he knows can’t be effective without unity, and which he knows that, with unity, would mean negotiating with Hamas, which he knows most of the world would see as a reasonable deal-breaker.

So, dead as a doornail. Merry Christmas.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.