A recent Associated Press article reports that Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority he leads, forcing Israel to re-occupy the West Bank, "if troubled peace talks fail."
The article, like almost all others in a similar vein, fails to mention there are no peace talks to fail and that Abbas has often made the same threat.
During the last two years, except for a brief, three week interlude in September, there have been no peace talks for the simple reason that Mahmoud Abbas has refused to sit down with Israel and negotiate. That three week interlude came near the end of Israel's unilateral and unreciprocated ten-month moratorium on Jewish construction in the disputed territories and was proceeded by an Abbas threat to walk out in less than a month - which he promptly did.
That Abbas refuses to negotiate is rather curious, since a prime focus of negotiations is the establishment of the Palestinian Arab state he claims to crave. On the other hand, one wonders whether he really wants an Arab state, given that he spurned an offer from former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to establish one on the equivalent of all the disputed territory. He acts as if his true goal - as spelled out in the charters of both the Fatah and PLO groups he also leads - remains the destruction of Israel.
His threat to force Israel to re-occupy the Palestinian Authority governed areas serves as a reminder that, for all practical purposes, the so-called Israeli occupation ended in the mid-1990s with the formation of the Palestinian Authority and that Israeli leaders have repeatedly made clear Israel does not want to rule over the Palestinian Arabs.
Ironically, forcing Israel to resume governing the Arabs in the disputed territories, while unwelcome by Israel, would probably be beneficial to the Palestinian Arabs. People tend to forget how much better life got in Judea and Samaria when Israel captured those areas after being attacked by Jordan, which had occupied them from 1948 until 1967.
In what used to be recognized as the most benign occupation in history, schools, hospitals and roads were built. Colleges and universities were opened after none existed under Jordanian occupation. Living conditions improved and life expectancy soared.
These improvements abruptly ended with the outbreak of the first intifada in the late 1980s. Things got worse when the Palestinian Authority took over in the 1990s and then really nosedived in 2000 when Yasser Arafat rejected the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state and launched his brutal terror offensive.
The situation in the West Bank has improved slightly the last few years, after Israel broke the back of the terror offensive which, while aimed at terrorizing Jews, hurt the Arabs more than the Israelis.
One other highly pertinent piece of information was omitted from the article: Abbas doesn't even pretend to have any role in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group even more radical than Fatah. Thus, even if Abbas had the will to negotiate peace (which he clearly doesn't) and the authority to negotiate peace (which he lacks, since he is no longer the legal leader of the Palestinian Authority), he clearly has no ability to implement a peace agreement.
Ultimately, these are just details which help illuminate the basic, underlying reason the Arab-Israel conflict continues to defy the most dedicated efforts of outsiders trying to help resolve it: peace requires the consent of both sides. While peace has been an overriding goal for Israel since its reestablishment in 1948, it can't make peace unilaterally. As Golda Meir sagely observed, peace will come when its Arab neighbors prize the lives of their children more than they hate Israel.