I was struck, twice, by an odd notion I heard on WBUR during stories on Israel. First, yesterday evening, Robert Siegel, interviewing Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, asked, rhetorically, whether President Abbas could really be expected to negotiate with Israel while Israel was conducting offensive operations in Gaza. I heard a similar remark this morning: someone (I can’t recall who) pointing out that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the region to try to get the parties to start talking again, and noting how difficult this would be in light of the Israeli attack.
Why is it that President Abbas can’t be expected to negotiate while the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is under Israeli attack, while Israel is expected to negotiate, and is in fact willing to negotiate, while Sderot and now Ashkelon are subject to rocket fire?
I can’t decide whether the answer is anti-Arab racism (Palestinians are crazy, passionate people who like to shoot guns in the air and can’t possibly be expected to restrain themselves or permit their leaders to negotiate while Israel is sullying their honor by invading Gaza) or the usual anti-Israel bias (it’s fair to ask Israel to bear burdens such as daily rocket attacks that we ourselves would be unwilling to bear, and to claim to support Israel’s right to defend herself while also protesting if Israel does the job too well or if there are too many civilian casualties).
Either way, I think the press coverage of this issue, which implies that the Palestinian Authority shouldn’t have to negotiate with Israel until Israel stops attacking Hamas (regardless whether Hamas stops attacking Israel) is not helping to move the ball forward.