In his Washinton Post column (“Palestinian stirrings”) this morning, Dennis Ross reports on his attendance at a conference that he describes as “an extraordinary event hosted in Gaza City by Ziad Abu Amr, a Palestinian legislator and chairman of the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations.”
Ross reports that representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front were also in attendance at the conference. As to the last group, Ross omits the remainder of its name. In full, the group is The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — “Palestine” meaning Israel, of course. Why Ross omits the full name of the group escapes me.
In the conference Ross spies “stirrings” of hope for peace. Among the “stirrings” is the concession by certain of the assembled multitude — Ross doesn’t identify them — that “violence was a mistake and nothing would be achieved by it.” Yet Ross not only fails to identify his interlocutors on this point, he fails to explore the meaning of their words.
Ross knows the frankly avowed goal and accompanying actions of these groups seeking the destruction of Israel. Did the speakers mean that violence was a tactical or a strategic mistake? Do they now accept the existence of the state of Israel?
On the one hand, Ross states that the “stirrings” he observes have appeared “in no small part because Arafat has passed from the scene.” On the other hand, among the “stirrings” Ross identifies are recent poll results indicating the relative popularity of Fatah versus Hamas. Fatah was of course Arafat’s faction of the PLO (and constitutionally dedicated to the destruction of Israel). Why its popularity constitutes a “stirring” is difficult to discern.
Today’s news includes reports of the campaigning by the man who will succeed to Arafat’s mantle as the leader of the Palestinian Authority: “Abbas offers to protect Mideast militants.” Meet the new boss: the story reports that Abbas “promised to follow in Arafat’s footsteps.” He will accordingly take no action to disarm the terrorist groups that seek to destroy Israel.
Ross’s recent memoir of his involvement in the “peace process” reveals a certain susceptibility to the ploys of Yasser Arafat. Among them was the agreement to symbolic concessions on his part while demanding substantive concessions on the part of Israel. (See David Meir-Levy’s interesting review of Ross’s book: “The ‘Missing Peace’ is missing pieces.”)
Ross seems to confuse “stirrings” with “wishes.” His column would be more persuasive if it distinguished between words and deeds, tactics and strategy, means and ends, or even took into account evidence that tends to belie its thesis.
UPDATE: Roger L. Simon provides an interesting counterpoint to my reading of Ross’s column in “Optimism from Ross.”
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