Will Palestinians finally sit at the negotiating table with Israel?

In January, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas  made clear he would not accept any peace plan with Israel from the United States.
In January, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas made clear he would not accept any peace plan with Israel from the United States. Getty Images

Recently, we heard that the United States decided to close the office of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) in Washington to pressure the Palestinian leadership into negotiating a peace agreement with Israel, showing there is a price to pay for not doing so.

Israel’s government obviously supports this decision based on the hope that this might be a catalyst to get the peace process back on track.

Ever since 2008, Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel. Some might think that they are afraid the negotiations will fail. However, the real reason is they are afraid the negotiations will succeed and they would face the real prospect of signing a peace agreement ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestinian leaders repeatedly have shown that they will not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Every time they negotiated with Israel and the process was nearing a tangible chance for peace, they aborted negotiations, to abort the peace process, and instead reverted to violence and terror.

That was the case at Camp David in 2000, and the Annapolis process in 2007-2008. While Palestinians found countless excuses not to return to negotiations, Israel was under pressure to give concessions in order to satisfy Palestinian demands. Still, every time we made concessions, the Palestinian leadership found a new excuse to avoid talks.

For instance, under pressure from the previous U.S. administration, Israel froze construction in the settlements of Judea and Samaria for 10 months (November 2009 to September 2010), hoping such a clear move would convince the Palestinians to negotiate. But they did nothing for the first nine months, while in the final month they relentlessly demanded an extension of the freeze. More recently, Israel attempted to negotiate under the lead of the former U.S. administration, only to find unwilling Palestinian counterparts.

But we continue to welcome into Israel thousands of Palestinians who need specialized medical treatment. Despite all Israeli efforts, one should ask oneself whether the Palestinian leaders really want to negotiate and end the conflict.

After all that time, Israel remains committed and willing to engage in meaningful negotiations without any preconditions in order to reach a stable and long lasting peace. I hope that this step taken by the U.S. government will lead us to a peace process that will finally end the conflict, instead of showing again the real face of the Palestinian leadership, which never misses an opportunity to show it cares more about the conflict with Israel than the future of its own people.

Lior Haiat is the consul general of Israel in Miami.