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Analysis: No deal for Israel is better than a bad one

    As we head towards a new round of peace talks, what lessons can be learned from the failed Camp David process?

    Lesson 1. Listen to what the Palestinians are saying among themselves. Both Mr Barak and Mr Clinton reported being "surprised" by the intensity and scope of Palestinian demands, especially regarding the right of return and Jerusalem, in which Palestinians demanded sovereignty over Muslim holy sites and areas, while refusing Israeli sovereignty over Jewish holy sites and areas. The Palestinians themselves were not surprised; they had been indoctrinated for generations to expect these as a minimal condition. Nor were many Western and Israeli critics who had long been pointing this out, to little avail.

    Lesson 2. Interim solutions are no solutions. The Oslo accords were based on the idea that if you go part way, ceding some land and control, you will build confidence among Palestinians, enabling tougher concessions later on. Well, those agreements built confidence, all right - among the most militant Palestinians, who took them as a signal of Israeli weakness, bringing about the intifada and the rise of Hamas. The effect was to destroy Israeli confidence in peace, which has yet to be rebuilt. Today, nothing less than a final agreement will do.

    Lesson 3. Things can always be worse. One of the big arguments pushing the peace efforts has been the claim that one must always try for a negotiated peace, since things cannot be worse than the present state of warfare. Yet this has proven false over and again. The intifada showed the hole in the logic of both Camp David and Oslo, which gave the Palestinians weapons that were turned against Israelis. After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, under the same logic, Hamas set up an Iranian outpost, launched thousands of rockets at Israel, and brought about the 2008 Gaza War.

    Lesson 4. Base your optimism on facts, not fantasy. There are clear tests for whether the Palestinians are serious: is hatred taught in schools? Are terrorists lionised, funded and trained by the PA? In all these, the PA failed to prove its peaceful intentions, yet Camp David II went forward.

    The West Bank in recent years has seen a sea change in economic development, policing and cooperation with the IDF - suggesting a genuine effort to create the more vibrant, self-sustaining society necessary for peace. But as long as the Palestinians continue to indoctrinate hatred and support terror, and as long as Gaza is controlled by Hamas, even a full-fledged peace treaty will only perpetuate the war through other means.

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