William Booth has authored two pieces in the Washington Post in the past month, both lamenting the stagnation in the peace process. In the faux-balanced that way that we’ve come to know so well in the American media, one, titled “Man without a plan: Palestinians don’t hate Abbas, but they’re tired of him,” focuses on the Palestinian side and Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s weaknesses and challenges as a leader, and one, titled “Twenty years later, as Rabin is remembered, little hope for peace,” focuses on the Israeli side, specifically, on the memorial service to Prime Minister Rabin.
An uninformed reader of the two pieces would conclude that both sides lack leadership that can bring peace, both sides are stagnating. Totally fair treatment, right? Booth even actually quoted Abbas saying “We bless every drop of blood that has been shed for Jerusalem,” way, way down in the 23rd paragraph (but only after first describing him as having “pledged nonviolence”).
There’s just one problem — one little detail missing from both pieces. Neither one mentions that it is Abbas himself who is responsible for the stagnation, as it was Abbas who refused a deal for Palestinian independence and statehood in 2008.
As we know, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered withdrawal from 93.7% of the West Bank, with land swaps providing territory equal to another 5.8%, for a total of 99.5% of the territory, along with a tunnel that would have connected Gaza with the West Bank, and a compromise on Jerusalem under which representatives from five nations — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the US, and Israel — would administer the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock and The Western Wall. Abbas walked away from this. Any article purporting to discuss his failed leadership that omits this, perhaps his biggest failure, is perpetuating a lie.
The Rabin memorial piece omits not only any mention of the 2008 offer, but also of the 2000 offer at Camp David, over which even Bill Clinton seems to have forgotten that he presided. The Camp David offer should have been the fulfillment of the process begun at Oslo and the fulfillment of Rabin’s legacy. Instead, it was rejected by Arafat in favor of the second intifada.
Ignoring these momentous events, Booth writes in his article about the Rabin memorial, “a final peace deal, even a minor advance, has eluded the players for decades.” Eluded, somehow, passively. He continues, “Israelis find themselves again the targets of deadly knife attacks and violent demonstrations by Palestinians, who despair of ever having sovereignty over the land they want for a future state.” Palestinians despair, he claims, implying they had no role in shaping their own fate.
In his article about Abbas, Booth quotes his man-on-the-street, Hamzi Suliman, 25, a chef in Ramallah, “‘what you don’t understand is that we don’t care who the Palestinian president is anymore. What we want are results and an end to this humiliation.'” He continues with another, Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster, “‘the people are angry with [Abbas], because they are angry about the situation, and the situation has not changed.”
Entirely missing from the article is the reason for the lack of change. And of course, the 2008 offer was not Abbas’s only missed opportunity — also unmentioned are the nine months of the ten month settlement freeze during which Abbas refused to negotiate in 2010, and his rejection of US-proposed parameters in 2014.
Why does so much of the American media have total amnesia when it comes to these instances of Palestinian rejectionism? What is it about this piece of history that makes it so difficult for them to face?
Perhaps, it is that when this fact is taken into account, it becomes impossible to continue to blame Israel for the impasse, for the “occupation,” for Palestinian desperation and violence. It becomes impossible to maintain the “narrative.” So, best to just ignore it.