Prime Minister Olmert made a statement at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. Said he:
"The situation is different than in the past. For the first time, there is Palestinian leadership that wants to reach peace based on two states living side by side in security, and where Israel will be a Jewish state."
I read this and I want to gag. Could it possibly be that Olmert is so self-deluded that he really believes this? Because he has met face to face with Abbas and Abbas said the right things to him? Or is it because he’s so damn eager to give away our heritage that he doesn’t care how he does it? Or because it serves him politically?
Just yesterday, I quoted Avi Dichter, Minister of Internal Security, and a member of Olmert’s own Kadima party, who said, "For seven years the PA did not lift a finger to stop the terrorism…" Was Olmert not paying attention?
I know what his response would be: Well, Abbas wanted to do something about terrorism, but he wasn’t strong enough. To which I would respond, "Garbage!" This is Abbas’s ploy. In Gaza, Fatah was stronger than Hamas — they had more men, better equipment and better training. But they walked — or ran — away because they didn’t want to take out Hamas. Abbas has never wanted to take out Hamas.
How is it that Olmert trusts his sincerity regarding peace when Abbas joined the terrorist Hamas in forming a unity government even though it didn’t recognize Israel, and is now holding secret negotiations to get back in bed with Hamas?
How is it that he trusts Abbas’s sincerity when not so many months ago he stood before a crowd in Ramallah and told them that it’s forbidden to aim their guns at each other — all their guns should be aimed at Israel?
Olmert explained that we would be proceeding in two stages: The "talking stage" and the "implementing stage." We will give them that "political horizon" but deliver on nothing until the PA "passes the test of implementing what it needs to."
Does it sound reasonable and safe to you? I assure you, it’s not — it’s a horror.
The PA — under Arafat and now under Abbas — has a perfect record. It never honors commitments. Let me provide a small example here out of the hundreds that exist: We agreed to provide amnesty to certain wanted members of Al Aksa Brigades — a Fatah-affiliated terrorist group — with the understanding that they had to relinquish their weapons. It was the PA’s job to collect those weapons. But it turns out that these guys still have their weapons. Or, to give just one more example, how about the fact, which I alluded to very recently, that Abbas made a public statement saying he would have nothing to do with Hamas ever again, even as he was secretly negotiating with Hamas.
Abbas, who was Arafat’s deputy, learned "forked tongue" techniques from him very well.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said at a press conference as recently as September 4, that " we will also have to consider…the fact that the parties with which we are conducting the dialogue are not capable of carrying out the commitments that we will be demanding."
Was Olmert not paying attention then either? Not able to honor commitments, not wishing to. Ultimately it doesn’t matter because the bottom line is that the PA will NOT honor commitments.
So why proceed to offer something , even on paper, if this is understood at the get go?
And here we come to the most dangerous part of this scenario: If the PA has a perfect record of not honoring commitments, the Israeli government has a near perfect record of not insisting that it do so before moving ahead. Let’s return to the examples I provided above. Did Olmert note that Al Aksa gunmen still had their weapons and say that the deal was off and there would be no "amnesty"? You bet your boots he didn’t. The guys with the guns are still free from pursuit. And, worse, did Olmert say that Abbas promised not to deal with Hamas and that since he is speaking with its leaders again, our negotiations with Abbas must terminate? That’s a rhetorical question. We all know he didn’t do that. Again and again and again, we’ve averted our eyes and continued down the path in spite of PA noncompliance.
So what will happen now if Olmert makes certain promises conditioned on PA compliance? Very very dangerous, I tell you.
And with all of the above , the clincher is probably this: Olmert warns that we have to grab this opportunity to deal with the "moderate" Abbas while we can, for in a couple of years we’ll be facing a Hamas leadership instead.
I would suggest that Olmert has it exactly backwards. If we cannot trust that Abbas and his confederates will retain power, and we are able to predict that Hamas is almost certain to co-opt Abbas and gain control of the PA before long, why would we want to promise the PA anything, even on paper? It means that if we make territorial concessions to the PA, down the road we’ll have Hamas at our doorstep in the east as well as in the west.
Olmert tried to mollify his ministers by assuring them that the conference would not be the place for negotiations, but only for setting a tone. Besides, he said, it was clear to everyone that a condition for participation in the conference was recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
That is a blatant misrepresentation , however. Nations that avowedly don’t recognize Israel — such as Syria and Saudi Arabia — are being encouraged to come. What Rice said was that participants should be on board with the two-state solution, but that is something else. There are Arab states who will endorse the "two-state" solution as an interim step towards getting rid of Israel, without recognizing Israel’s legitimacy at all. This distinction must be made clearly. In fact, the refusal of the Arab world to recognize Israel’s right to exist here as a Jewish state is at the heart of the issue.
In spite of all of this , I still believe, however, that nothing will come of it. PA demands are too maximalist. The PA leadership, for all the noises to the contrary it is making, does not want a two-state solution and end of conflict. It wants us finished. And so those maximalist demands will ensure that nothing really happens. No one is sure at this point that the conference will even come off.
Olmert said again yesterday that he would be bringing nothing but a general and carefully worded declaration, which has not been drafted yet. But just yesterday I cited Qurei, PA negotiator, who said they wouldn’t be coming to the conference unless specifics are set down ahead of time. So what will happen remains anyone’s guess.
Then there is still the issue of Hamas . Let me say first that even though Olmert is willing now (which he shouldn’t be) to continue talking with Abbas in spite of the fact that he is exploring rapprochement with Hamas, I remain convinced that if there really is a unity government again it will shut down our government’s readiness to proceed. What is more, I believe that the closer Abbas gets to forming that unity government, the more he will find ways to not attend the conference: this is likely to be a stipulation from Hamas. Guaranteed, one way or another, Hamas is looking to make sure negotiations don’t proceed.
Haim Ramon raised again at the Cabinet meeting the notion — which met with a negative response before — of giving Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PA. This time, to th
e shock of many, myself included, Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman signed on to this to some extent: his idea is that we could trade the Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem for certain areas of Judea and Samaria. As wrong-headed as this is, I note here that it falls way short of what the Palestinians are demanding. Lieberman wants to keep the Old City and Mount Scopus. The Palestinians want it all.
The London paper Al-Quds al-Arabi claimed this morning that Olmert and Abbas had reached an agreement to turn the Temple Mount over to Jordan and that the Arab residents of Jerusalem would have Jordanian citizenship. Olmert is denying this (for whatever that denial is worth) and I haven’t seen a comment from Jordan or Abbas. Jordan already has special consideration on the Temple Mount, but this is not the same as total control. Commented Mk Aryeh Eldad (NU): if Israel willingly gives up sovereignty of the Temple Mount to a foreign power "it will lose its moral, historical, legal and religious justification for existence." Indeed.
Jordan has been resisting giving Palestinians living outside of Jordan citizenship — even though that was the situation during the 19 years that Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria.
MK Benny Elon (Chair NU) has come forward with another plan involving Jordanian citizenship for Palestinians that does not involve territorial compromise by Israel.
"The political discourse in Israel consists of old-fashioned concepts and mistakes. The assumptions are that in order to achieve peace, we must relinquish territory; that the Palestinians are a partner; and that Israel is prohibited from dealing with the refugee problem. These conceptions have failed and brought us to the place we are today: No peace, terror, Hamas controls Gaza and is threatening to seize control of Judea and Samaria. We must reexamine all the underlying assumptions that brought us to this current situation, and think differently, ‘outside the box.’"
His plan: Israel would retain control of Judea and Samaria while the Arab residents would become citizens of Jordan.
Additionally, there would be a focus on rehabilitating the refugees according to a humanitarian rather than a political solution. I vigorously applaud this approach. The wrong-headed focus has been on their "right of return" — which in actuality has kept them in a miserable limbo for almost 60 years and has been used as a weapon against Israel. It’s time to start helping them individually get their lives together with permanency. UNRWA, the agency that has promoted "return" and kept them in limbo, would be dismantled; the refugees would be rehabilitated — with permanent housing, grants to get them on their feet and citizenship — and the camps would be dismantled.
Rav Benny says that surveys indicated that 30% to 50% of the Palestinian refugees are interested in such a plan, which would provide rehabilitation in a third country, and that for the first time, because of the current political climate, there are Arab nations interested in cooperating.
He has launched a million dollar campaign to promote this idea, which he is calling the "Israel Initiative."