The Only Precondition for MidEast Peace Talks

Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has long argued that he needed many preconditions satisfied before he would sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for peace talks. Those requirements included settlement freezes and releasing Palestinian Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. Netanyahu begrudgingly did both of those things, and Abbas slowly showed up to talks, but didn’t actively engage to negotiate a solution.

Instead, during the last talks in 2014, Abbas shuttered the talks by forming a unity government with the terrorist group Hamas. Within a week, Hamas loyalists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, leading up to the 2014 Gaza War.

More recently, Abbas argued for a new set of preconditions, including that peace talks must continue for at least one year, and that Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would be concluded by 2017. His preconditions seemingly now include demanding that his end goals (a new Palestinian State without Jews) be met before he even sits at the table.

Abbas sounds like a very serious man seeking peace.

For his part, Netanyahu continues to state that he is willing to sit down with Abbas without any preconditions and that he is open to discuss any matter. In doing so, he hoped to start bilateral talks and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.

Netanyahu is wrong too.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu joint press conference with PM of France Manuel Valls. Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO)


There is nothing wrong with the parties stating the goals they hope to achieve in the talks, whether they be the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with every Jew evicted from the land (PA position), or that such Palestinian state needs to officially recognize Israel as a Jewish State (Israeli position). The desires may be non-starters for the counter-parties, and whether those goals are ultimately achieved will be a matter of negotiations and compromise. However, they are not, nor should they be treated as, preconditions.

Preconditions had historically been viewed as items which the parties required to initiate and sustain the peace talks. In the past, Abbas argued that he needed those tangible results to gain popular support for the talks, and Netanyahu gave in (due to pressure from the USA) with a settlement freeze and releasing prisoners. More recently, Netanyahu banned any member of the Israeli parliament from going to the Temple Mount, to calm the killing spree launched by Palestinian Arabs against Jews in the Holy Land.

Asking for and satisfying these preconditions is flawed and counter-productive.

If peace talks will ultimately put both parties on a path to a better course, why beg the parties to show up?  The Palestinians demand preconditions and use the complaint “show me that you’re serious” to obtain slices of their ultimate goal, while never publicly making a single concession.  They continue to extract items from the Israelis while conceding nothing, as they wait to see what the French proposal will produce for them, before taking any steps towards the Israelis.

The French, while likely well-meaning, have destroyed the basic parameters for peace talks: they have pushed aside bilateral negotiations.  In doing so, there is no chance of bringing the Palestinians to the table.

For the Israelis, satisfying slices of Palestinian goals without any mutual action by the Palestinians before talks commence has two negative consequences: it continues to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they can forever delay publicly stating any compromise position, undermining the Israeli public’s confidence in the talks; and it obfuscates the vital parameter of the peace process, which is not whether the parties can sustain the talks, but whether they have the ability to deliver on the outcome.


If the parties negotiating the peace talks have no legitimacy, and no ability to deliver on whatever is negotiated, the talks are a complete waste of time and effort.

Which leads to the only real practical precondition to peace talks: the Palestinians must hold elections.

The Palestinians last voted for president in 2005, and for parliament in 2006. They have held no elections for either president or parliament since that time.

Acting President of the PA Abbas’s term expired in January 2009. He has continued in that post for many years, but has neither mandate nor support of the Palestinian people. The March 2016 Palestinian poll concluded

If new presidential elections are held today in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ candidate Ismail Haniyeh would win against Mahmud Abbas with a margin of 11 percentage points.” 


“a majority in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continues to demand his [Abbas’s] resignation.”

Abbas plo council
Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: Reuters

Hamas won 58% of the seats of parliament in the 2006 elections and subsequently routed the rival Fatah party out of Gaza. Abbas and his Fatah party have almost zero influence in the coastal strip.  That coastal strip has launched three wars against Israel since Abbas took power, in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

So Abbas has no legitimate authority, no popular support, and no ability to deliver peace.

Yet the world wants the Israelis to negotiate with a straw man.  Why should they?  For photo ops?

The only precondition for peace talks are for the Palestinian to hold new elections and for that winner to control both Palestinian Authority territories in Gaza and Area A in Judea and Samaria.


One of the fears in the global community about holding Palestinian elections is that Hamas would win the presidential contest. Almost every poll of Palestinian Arabs over the past ten years shows Hamas winning, particularly against Abbas. As such, world leaders have been reluctant to force an election as a Hamas victory would destroy any peace process, as Hamas states clearly in its charter (Article 13), “so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement…There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

As such, the world must be clear about the elections: Hamas, in its current configuration, with its current charter cannot participate in the elections. Should the Palestinians allow Hamas to run, the world will view such action as a rejection of any peace with the Jewish State.  The ramifications would be severe:

  • Nations would begin to cut off all Palestinian aid
  • From the United Nations perspective, the UNRWA relief agency which was initially designed as a short-term agency almost 70 years ago, will cut its staff and funding in half (and move those resources to help actual refugees at the UNHCR)
  • The global community would not put forward any international peace process, nor consider permitting a Palestinian admission into any UN agency for a decade

However, should the Palestinians have elections which exclude the Hamas terrorist group, the Palestinians would be represented by a leadership with a mandate, authority and capability of delivering on peace.  Such a leadership would be an actual counterparty that could deliver on the necessary compromises with Israel.

It is well past time to stop calling international conferences that exclude the Palestinians and Israelis, and forcing Israelis to negotiate with a straw man.  Begin the process of holding genuine Palestinian elections now.

First posted  at FirstOneThrough
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  1. Without Hamas’ participation in a Palestinian election, the winner will not be viewed as legitimate, let alone have any mandate to do anything. Like Abbas currently, his writ will not run through Gaza. Nor will he have the required authority to make Palestinians respect and abide by any peace treaty. In reality, a disenfranchised Hamas would disrupt (or worse) any negotiations that seemed to be bearing fruit, just as they undermined Peres’ chances to succeed Rabin after his assassination with an outbreak of terror.
    If the PA were really interested in a peaceful resolution, they need to acquire the proverbial monopoly on lawful force – which in practical terms means that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the rest need to be disarmed or destroyed. No one will make that point, because they know it will never happen and that means no real peace negotiations can happen.

  2. Otto Waldmann

    The masquarade about “preconditions” has been going on ever since the peace process never happened. The CONFLICT PROCESS, however, is doing just fine and Israel really means it as much as the palestinian side, each with a clear agenda of their own.
    In the “process”, Israel continues to prosper as a society, economy, identity albeit within an international context confronted by a raft of tactics subordinated to the palestinian side of the front lines.
    The most relevant in the dynamics of the region/case is the fact that a large number of the old centres of palestinian cause support have changed quite radically. New political configurations, due to core changes in the regimes substance, new alignments of Arab quarters to the West as distinct to the seventh decade of the last century, as well as the serious erosion of the general international support and concern for a cause stretched well beyond its meaning – if it really had/has one – have all contributed to a shift in the scale of preferences within the conflict spectrum.
    If these days occasional rhetoric from some international bodies seems dedicated to the Arafat kind of crie de guerre, those are just gasps of superficial consideration for a people, the palestinians, far too heavily compromised over the decades of farcical manipulations of a World which cannot possibly by THAT stupid to ingest each cheap trick they concoct, that bloody boycott and suction stuff included. Occasionally a hysterical Italian sheilla with some non-sense title makes a fool of herself and some other UN individual with a thick whatever accent also remind us how ridiculously irrelevant international organisations have been in their pathetic attempt to do… nothing ( enough adjectives for now, I reckon ).
    The traditional implied associatioon of any Arab and any jihadist, for that matter , cause with the palestinian cause has generated serious concerns in the civilised world, due, mainly to the severity of the jihadist onslaught toward the Western World.
    So, preconditions, shmeconditions, we are doing just METZUYAN, MY Eretz Israel looks more beautiful than ever, I just watched OUR gorgeous team of Israeli motek winning gold in gymnastics while palestinian children do their hardest to have the prospects of a decent life destroyed by the kind of martyrdom preconditions imposed by their seriously deranged political masters.
    When those hate ridden, war monger palestinians will be half as decent as our people, there may be a chance of sitting together and talk tachles; that’s THE most important precondition !!!

  3. Otto Waldmann

    …a providential typo is now all mine , ” boycott and suction”……..Couldn’t have done it if I tried. Anyone using it , owes me !!!!