Instead of immediately entering into negotiations with Israel - the promised outcome of the recent Annapolis meeting called by President Bush - the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has wasted the past two weeks demanding Israel totally cease all current building activities in the West Bank as a condition of those negotiations proceeding.
This delaying tactic has failed in the past and failed again this time. Jews have every right to settle in the West Bank in international law and Israel has made it clear it will not agree to totally waive that right as a pre-condition to the conduct of negotiations.
Regrettably the Arabs have never stopped making such unrealistic and politically unattainable territorial demands for the last 90 years. Had they accepted proposals made by the international community 60-70 years ago, they would have had a flourishing and thriving State today in an area of former Palestine far greater than size they are now demanding.
Many similar opportunities have presented themselves since then but have been allowed to pass - by rejection or default. Some occurred before - and some after - the founding of the PLO in 1964. One was created in 2003 with the formulation of the Roadmap proposed by America, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - the Quartet - but remains unimplemented in the smallest detail.
The PLO has actually gone backwards in political influence since the Roadmap was unveiled. It has lost political control in Gaza. It lacks the authority to enforce security and root out terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza - essential conditions for the Roadmap to have any chance of success. It is now but one of many political groups vying for power amongst the Palestinian Arabs.
Yet - ironically - it continues to receive substantial international financial assistance and diplomatic support despite continuing to make the following longstanding and non negotiable territorial - and in some cases abhorrently racist - demands that it knows can never be achieved in any negotiations:
1. That Jews be denied the right to settle in any part of the West Bank - part of the ancient biblical and internationally sanctioned Jewish homeland approved by the League of Nations and the United Nations
2. That all 450000 Jews currently living in the West Bank be uprooted from their homes and businesses located there.
3. That the West Bank become a Jew free zone.
4. That the Palestinian Arabs be granted sovereignty and statehood in all of the West Bank
5. That millions of Palestinian Arabs or their descendants be given the unconditional right to go and live in Israel.
These conditions are completely unacceptable to Israel. President Bush has made it clear he supports Israel's position. The PLO knows this - yet it still pursues - and persists with - these impossible demands.
Two principal reasons underscore why these demands continue to be made:
1. They ensure that no resolution of the conflict will be possible thereby keeping alive the 43 year old PLO dream of driving all the Jews out of Palestine as the only solution.
This paranoia has been the stumbling block that has prevented the Arabs accepting any proposals over the past 70 years for the territorial division of Palestine between Jews and Arabs. The PLO agreed to amend its Charter in 1993 to reflect it had abandoned that position - yet has failed to do so to this day.
The PLO shares common ground in pursuing this goal with Islamic Jihad whose spokesman - Abu Hamza - stated in the Washington Post on 27 December:
"We will continue to bring terror and destruction and death among the Zionists until we uproot them from our land"
Hamas - the PLO's main political rival - has declared that any negotiations:
"are valueless and weightless and would not serve the national cause of our people and would undermine its higher interests" KUNA - 27 December.
For Hamas that national cause is also the destruction of Israel.
So the tactic continues for the PLO to conduct Mickey Mouse negotiations whilst chipping away at the edges to secure some territorial or other advantage either before or during those negotiations such as freezing any building or settlement activity by Israel, trying to stop completion of the security barrier and procuring prisoner releases.
2. Continuing negotiations postpone the Arab League accepting the primary responsibility for ending the refugee status of the Palestinian Arabs living outside the boundaries of former Palestine - a status directly created by the invasion of Palestine by the armies of six Arab League members in 1948 and disgracefully and inhumanely perpetuated by the Arab League ever since.
The power inherent in the PLO being a negotiating partner is no doubt exhilarating. Travelling the world capitals and being received by Heads of State makes for the good life for those lucky enough to be part of it. But any chance of gaining statehood is an impossibility whilst these unrealistic demands continue to be made.
The PLO shows no signs of making any concessions and so is destined to continue to walk the path of statelessness - whilst the territory available for any such state is further diminished by new facts created on the ground that makes the likelihood of such a state in the future a territorial impossibility.
This position has arisen because the PLO has in reality never lost the plot - to create an Arab state in the whole of former Palestine over the ashes of Israel.
The post-Annapolis negotiations will ultimately be dubbed as "the negotiations to nowhere" resulting in the demise of the PLO as Israel's negotiating partner. Once again the PLO will have missed the boat - probably the last boat it can ever hope to catch before it sinks into political oblivion.