IT'S HARD to negotiate with someone who, for starters, denies your right to exist.

That's why I've never understood how someone who's neither Israeli nor Palestinian and whose stake in the Middle East "peace process" is purely as an observer, can support the fiction of compromise with an entity that's part Palestinian Authority and part Hamas, whose credo unashamedly seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state. (Exactly where would you look for the common ground?)

I'm no expert on the Middle East conflict. My information comes from books, news reports and the occasional conversation with a person who's lived through it. My Israeli and Palestinian clients have tried to explain the particulars of the situation to me, each having a somewhat skewed perspective.

Among them there have been a surprising number of Israelis who empathize with the plight of their displaced Palestinian brothers and sisters, and who seem apologetic for the more hawkish elements of their society. Sadly, the number of Palestinians who seem to have any sympathy for the Jews forced from their homes by pogroms and purges - both in Europe and other Middle Eastern countries - is much smaller.

AND that's the distinguishing characteristic for me, this sense of victimhood on the part of the Palestinians, an unwillingness to see that others can also have a claim on grief or anger at their political destiny.

This "victim's narrative" was reiterated last week in a New York Times op-ed written by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority chief who has embraced his brothers in Hamas - the group that murders Israeli children and uses its own as human shields in the name of "freedom."

You'd think that it would be difficult to play on the sympathies of the world by pleading political impotence while at the same time using terrorism to articulate your grievances. Surprisingly, the Palestinians have managed to pull off that juggling act quite well.

In some ways, it reminds me of the same arguments used to promote affirmative action for minorities and women, those traditionally aggrieved groups who seem to think that they're entitled to payback for every past offense, real or imagined. They, too, have a vested interest in the victimization industry.

But at least in America we sometimes manage to challenge those outdated assumptions with the understanding that allowing people to claim eternal victimhood also manages to keep them, ironically, in an inferior position. You have only to look at what entitlements like welfare have done to a vast swath of our own society to know that the "helping hand" can also be the one that ends up strangling you.

But on the global stage, those arguments don't seem to hold any water. The world is content to listen to the cries of the Palestinians over their "stolen" homeland without looking at the competing narrative: that it's actually fellow Arabs in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt who have kept the Palestinians from achieving their potential, not Israel.

More to the point, Palestinians sometimes tend to be their own worst enemies, content to wage war against a country that desperately seems to want only peaceful coexistence. And while the Yasser Arafats were busy killing schoolchildren, Olympic athletes, grandmothers in the marketplace and brides on their wedding day, the Israelis were irrigating the desert, building homes and creating a flourishing market economy.

And since we've spent the week debating borders, including President Obama's suggestion that Israel should retreat to its own 1967 lines, it might be helpful to remember that had the Palestinians accepted the U.N. declaration of 1948 that created the state of Israel, they'd have long had that longed-for homeland with intact borders not subject to wars and settlements.

But while Israel was content to live with the terms of that agreement, the Palestinians and their enablers refused to accept what they saw as the world's attempt to expiate its guilt for what had happened to Europe's Jews. Much better, they thought, to fight for every acre of land than to settle for something less. And that meant no peace.

And they've managed to drag most of the world over to their side.

There's a lot of sympathy for Palestinians in the global community. The plight of the refugee has been publicized by celebs like Vanessa Redgrave. The United Nations, the same one that created Israel in 1948, has convened panels through which countries like Cuba and Sudan accuse Israel of human-rights abuses. Israel is portrayed as a well-funded Goliath to the Palestinian David.

And yet we conveniently forget that this David loads his slingshot with deadly ammo from Syria and Iran, and takes aim not at Goliath's military complex but at his defenseless citizens.

What victimhood.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email

cflowers1961@yahoo.com. She blogs at philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.