One of the reasons why it would be very difficult for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the negotiating table with Israel is the massive campaign the Palestinians have launched to promote boycotts of Israel.
This campaign is being waged by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's loyalists in Fatah and the PLO.
Those who are today calling for a boycott of Israeli products, such as milk and dairy products, will be the first to stand against any attempt to resume the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel in the future.
Although Abbas himself has publicly spoken against the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, now he seems to have given his tacit support for the current campaign in the West Bank.
During a visit to South Africa in late 2013, Abbas told reporters, "No, we don't support the boycott of Israel. But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements."
But the latest PLO and Fatah campaign is not directed only against settlement products. Rather, it is targeting anything that is made in Israel, including milk, biscuits and chocolate.
The campaign against Israeli products is the latest in a series of anti-Israel and anti-peace measures that PLO and Fatah activists have taken in recent years. These measures include the establishment of an "anti-normalization" movement whose goal is to thwart any encounters between Israelis and Palestinians, including sports matches and peace conferences.
In January last year, scores of Palestinians attacked a hotel in Ramallah where Israelis and Palestinians were holding a meeting to talk peace. The Israelis were evacuated under Palestinian police protection and handed over to Israeli authorities.
It is worth noting that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership never denounced the attack on the peace gathering, which occurred less than three miles away from the PA president's office and private residence.
Because of the "anti-normalization" campaign, it has become impossible and even unsafe to organize any public meeting between Israelis and Palestinians, not only in the West Bank, but also in other parts of the world.
A number of Palestinian journalists who participated in a conference attended by Israeli colleagues in a European capital were punished by being expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. Palestinian children who participated in a soccer match with Israelis reported that they had received threats from "anti-normalization" activists in the West Bank. A more recent attempt to organize a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in Bethlehem was called off after organizers said they received death threats from Palestinians.
Now that the "anti-normalization" movement has succeeded in putting an end to public meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, the PLO and Fatah are moving on to the next stage, namely promoting boycotts of Israeli products. After preventing Israelis from entering Palestinian communities, now they are working toward blocking the entry of any goods made in Israel.
Abbas's Fatah and PLO loyalists, launching a massive campaign to promote the boycott of Israeli goods, last week seized a truck in Ramallah loaded with Israeli-made milk and other dairy products. They destroyed all its contents in the center of the city, under the watchful eye of Palestinian Authority policemen.
Palestinian anti-Israel activists dump out Israeli-made dairy products that they confiscated from local merchants in Ramallah, March 2. (Image source: Wattan TV video screenshot)
Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official who is closely associated with Abbas, defended the destruction of the dairy products and called for stepping up boycott campaigns against Israel.
"Fatah is working toward consolidating the culture of boycotting Israeli products in Palestinian society by all means so that it would become an essential part of the upbringing and education of Palestinian generations," Aloul explained. "We are headed toward confrontation with Israel."
Following the confiscation of the truck in Ramallah, Palestinian merchants in another West Bank city, Jenin, complained that Fatah activists have demanded they stop selling Israeli products, accompanied by threats. The merchants were told that they had one week to get rid of eight Israeli products or else they would face punishment.
When Aloul and other Palestinian officials talk about preparations for another "confrontation" with Israel, they are referring to the Palestinian Authority's efforts to promote boycotts of Israel in the local and international arenas, as well as filing "war crimes" charges against Israelis at the International Criminal Court.
So while some Israelis, Americans and Europeans are talking about the need to revive the peace process after the March 17 elections in Israel, the Palestinians are clearly moving in a different direction.
The PA's strategy now is to intensify its campaign to isolate and delegitimize Israel in the international community and promote all forms of boycotts of Israelis and Israeli goods. The PA is now convinced that the only way to force Israel to make concessions is through international pressure and the promotion of campaigns of boycott and divestment.
This strategy was reflected in this week's resolution by the PLO Central Council in Ramallah. After a two-day meeting, the Council decided to suspend all forms of security coordination with Israel and called for boycotting Israeli goods.
"The PLO's Central Council reaffirms the continuation of boycotting Israeli goods as a form of popular resistance," the Council said. "It calls on the free people of the world and the committees of solidarity with the Palestinian people to boycott Israeli goods and withdraw investments."
Campaigns calling for the boycott of Israelis and Israeli products are further radicalizing Palestinians, driving many of them into the open arms of radical groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If Abbas is interested in returning to the negotiating table with Israel (as he sometimes declares he is), then he needs to prepare his people for that and not incite them even more against Israel.
Those who destroy milk and dairy products in the center of Ramallah will also lynch any Israeli Jew they see in their city. This has happened before and could happen once again if the Fatah and PLO campaign of incitement against Israel continues.
And those who are opposed to the presence of Israeli products in their villages and cities will be the first to oppose the resumption of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.