The Palestinian Arab reaction to Sunday's speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed just how far they remain from being interested in any peace with rather than without Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister, generally described as a hard-liner, right-winger or hawk, said to the Palestinian Arabs "Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions." To the leaders of the Arab states he said: "Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place - including Jerusalem."
Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator and frequent spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, generally considered a "moderate," said "Netanyahu's speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations. We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain."
Earlier, Mahmoud Abbas, the chair of the Palestinian Authority who is sometimes known by his nom de guerre Abu Mazen and is generally considered a "moderate," repeatedly demanded Israel completely halt all building in the disputed territories as a condition for resuming peace negotiations - even as the Palestinian Authority is building aggressively in those territories, the Oslo Accords permit building by Israel in those territories, and a complete halt in Israeli building is incompatible with the understandings to which the United States and Israel agreed when Israel gave the whole of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.
Any objective analysis of the statements by Israeli and Arab leaders demonstrate a blatant double standard, with the term "hard-liner" routinely used to describe an Israeli prime minister who's clearly far more flexible than the Palestinian Arabs routinely described as "moderate."
The Israeli prime minister is ready to negotiate immediately, without preconditions. The Palestinian Authority chair demands concrete concessions in advance of negotiations and a guarantee about the outcome.
According to Erekat, the fact that Netanyahu referred to Jerusalem as Israel's capital closed the door on negotiations. He apparently believes truth and negotiations are incompatible.
Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish state three millennia ago and is the capital of Israel today. The fact that the Palestinian Arabs demand the redivision of Israel so that they can use it as their capital - if they ever agree to peace - has never led any Israelis to claim the Palestinian Arabs have closed the door to negotiations.
Erekat falsely said Netanyahu said refugees would not be negotiated. Netanyahu said no such thing, while correctly pointing out "justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel's borders."
This is obvious. Demands for Israel to accept the immigration of Palestinian Arabs, the overwhelming majority of whom are not actually refugees but the descendants of refugees who have been forced by their own leaders to live as if they were refugees, is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of a two-state solution.
It's also highly unlikely, despite its current negotiating position, that Israel would let the issue of the actual Arab refugees, of whom there are very few, all at least 61 years old, stand in the way of peace, as long as those refugees wishing to immigrate into Israel agreed to live out their remaining years as loyal citizens and the oil-rich Arab states guaranteed they would not be a burden to Israel.
That the Palestinian Arabs continue to use the refugees and their descendants an issue is just more proof they aren't yet sincerely interested in peace.
While demanding that Israel agree to the potential immigration of millions of hostile Arabs, Abbas simultaneously and hypocritically demands all of the disputed territory be made judenrein - free of Jews!
Approximately twenty percent of Israel's citizens are Arabs. Certainly, if the Palestinian Arabs were really interested in living in peace, the presence of a relative handful of Jews would not be a problem.
Perhaps the most blatant example of hypocrisy is Abu Mazen's demand - as a precondition to negotiations - that the Israeli leader endorse the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state while insisting he himself would never recognize Israel as the Jewish state!
The "hard-line" Israeli prime minister has indicated his acceptance of the principle of the establishment of another Palestinian Arab state. While nobody expects the chair of the Palestinian Authority to become a Zionist, his continued rejection of the state of the Jewish people is just one indication of how far from being ready for peace are even the "moderates" among the Palestinian Arabs.
It also illustrates the double standards used in applying labels to Arabs and Israelis. If the "moderate" Arab leaders were even half as willing to compromise as the Israelis labelled as "extremist," peace would quickly become a reality rather then the far off dream it remains today.