Ehud Olmert continues to be inordinately eager to promote a Palestinian state. Yesterday I wrote about the refusal of the leaders of the international community to recognize who the Palestinians really are and how unlikely is the possibility that they can put together a viable state. But I was remiss: I should have included the leaders of Israel.
Olmert is offering to hold negotiations on an “Agreement of Principles” for the establishment of a Palestinian state. What this means, and it makes me sick in the pit of my stomach, is that Olmert wants to push aside the difficult issues and yet negotiate on some of the factors that would be involved in establishment of a state — such as the characteristics of the state, official institutions and customs arrangements.
What this does is provide tacit acknowledgement on our side of acceptance in principle of a state (that’s what hits me in the stomach) even before there has been resolution of such issues as borders, refugees and the capital in Jerusalem.
Olmert is assuming this will strengthen Abbas , who can show what he has achieved, and strengthen himself with the Israeli populace at the same time, as he will say that he is the one who can bring “peace.”
What he is trying to do is “restart the peace process” even though he knows that the PA is weak and will not fulfill its obligations regarding security. Rather blows the mind, does it not?
Aaron Lerner of IMRA points out today that what Olmert seeks to do is dangerous because within the context of the Road Map a sovereign Palestinian state can be created before the difficult final status issues are resolved, so that it would be possible for us to find ourselves with a Palestinian state adjacent to our nation without the Palestinians even signing off on end of conflict. And indeed, Lerner is correct. The Road Map (see – new link soon) states:
“In the second phase, efforts are focused on the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty…as a way station to a permanent status settlement.”
It is not until phase three, that there is a permanent status agreement and an end to the conflict.
However… The very first phase of the plan calls for the Palestinians to “immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence.” This includes “sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” Also “all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.”
If the Palestinians were held to this , there would be no progress. But once again the bar is being lowered and obligations are being waived: They can’t do this? Let’s move on.
The stuff of nightmares.
I note that in the report on this, released by Haaretz , one of the subjects on the table would be a tunnel between Judea and Samaria and Gaza, to provide contiguity. I am fascinated, as Hamas controls Gaza and is supposed to be excluded at present. Olmert is supposed to be supporting Abbas in his stand against Hamas.
And so I remain alert as to what will happen with regard to this. My take is that no one knows how this is going to play out. This provides some measure of comfort: the Palestinians have in the past messed up opportunities to have a state and their situation today is considerably less stable than it was previously.
While we must be on guard, stay informed , and fight what he plans with all our energy, the fact is that from Olmert’s malign intentions to fulfillment of the reality is still a large step. There are many experts who see the PA as so unstable that it is incapable of actually achieving the status of a state. (See the following report.)
Ephraim Inbar has written an analytic piece for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, “Bush Cannot Succeed in the Holy Land.” He advances several reasons why Bush’s attempt to form a Palestinian state is bound to fail:
— Palestinian society cannot be reformed by outsiders . “Middle Eastern societies have already proven their resistance to attempts by Western powers to change their old habits of doing business. It is naïve to believe that political and social dynamics rooted in centuries-old traditions can be easily manipulated by well-intentioned, but presumptuous Westerners.” If ever reform is to occur it will be from within.
— It is a fallacy to assume that “economic assistance to the Palestinians can alleviate political problems.” “Since the Oslo Accords (September 1993), the Palestinian Authority (PA) has received the highest amount of economic aid per capita in the world. Yet, billions of euros transferred to the PA have been squandered and misused. The PA, like other Third World countries, was quite ingenious in siphoning parts of the aid to those members least in need of outside support.”
Inbar speaks of the philosophy of Maimonides , who said that in the hierarchy of philanthropy helping someone become self-sufficient ranks first. “…the history of humanitarian aid in the last century…shows that outside economic aid is only as good as the ability of a recipient’s economy and government to use it prudently and productively. Therefore, it is doubtful whether sending more money to the dysfunctional Palestinian economy, as President Bush proposes, will do any good. ”
— It is a mistake to think that Abbas can be an agent of change and thus deserves support. [His] record as leader is dismal. He failed to unite the security services under one organ as pledged and has not followed through with his anti-corruption election campaign promises. The chaos within the PA increased under his presidency…The Palestinians have suffered from bad leadership for almost a century, and are in need of a strong leader…to rescue them from the crisis they have brought upon themselves. Unfortunately, such a courageous and visionary leader does not appear to be in sight.”
— It is a fallacy to assume that “Palestinian society can be quickly transformed into a good neighbor of Israel and that a stable settlement is within reach.” “Since the Oslo Accords, the PA’s education system, media, and dramatic militarization process has done great damage to the collective Palestinian psyche. A society mesmerized by the use of force and accustomed to the shaheed (martyr) ready to blow himself up among the hated Israelis will not change overnight. Numerous facets of Palestinian society have been radicalized and the widespread influence and popularity of Hamas is a clear indication of such a process.”
(I apologize that I cannot locate a URL for this piece.)
This last point is perhaps the most ignored , and it is critical. People are aware of corruption and a host of other problems in the PA. They tend to forget about the radicalization of the population that has taken place because of the incitement that has been engendered since Oslo started. This is the greatest irony: When Arafat gained control of the educational system and the media, instead of educating for peace, he educated for war and hatred. This has continued with Abbas, in particular with regard to textbooks. The lessons have been well learned.
The fact is that there was more hatred of Israel in the PA in the years when we were withdrawing from Arab population centers and trying to give them autonomy (1994-2000) than there had been when we administered all systems. When we were in control, we simply didn’t permit that sort of incitement. Here is an example of trying to be nice and having it backfire totally. The hatred, the attitude that Israel is illegitimate and that Allah praises jihad, has all become entrenched.
If this isn’t game-playing, I do not know what it is: Envoys from Egypt and Jordan, originally charged by the Arab League with coming to Israel to do persuasion regarding the Arab League “peace” initiative, are finally here after a postponement in their visit. They were charged by the League, truly — selected because they already have diplomatic ties with Israel. But these envoys are now insisting they don’t represent the League but only their own nations. In fact, Egypt has gone to the trouble of specifically putting out a communiqué saying that their envoy, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, would be representing only his country.
What is this about? Israel had made note of the fact that this visit would be “historic” — the first time that representatives of the Arab League would be visiting Israel. And, as I noted before, the Arabs weren’t having it. Horrors! This might suggest that the various nations of the League recognize Israel, and they cannot allow that. And so, an about-face. Silly beyond words. They are ostensibly promoting a plan that would provide Israel with ‘normal relations’ with all these nations (if Israel pulled back to ’67 lines, allowed refugees to return,etc.) You can tell how eager they are about this.
To make it sillier still: Saudi Arabia, as I have written , has backed off from the plan, even though this “Arab League plan” is really a Saudi plan. So it seems the “normal relations” with Israel wouldn’t include the Saudis anyway.