The hope? That Bush and Rice are going to end up mighty embarrassed about the conference they have been promoting with such obtuse obstinacy, such disregard for Israel’s rights and security, such failure of intelligent political planning. We’re not home free yet, but we’re getting closer.
I confess this freely here. I predicted that nothing would come of this conference. Every logical analysis told me that had to be the case. But the heart does not always hear what the head knows. And when Olmert announced that he was willing to divide Jerusalem, a great cry of anguish went up from my heart, and I was afraid. I live in Jerusalem, and what the Palestinians are demanding — which is sacred and which I consider to be mine because I am a Jew — is literally within walking distance of my home.
But there is cause for hope and I’m listening to my head once more.
This is what we’ve been seeing in the last few days:
A mere two days ago Abbas spelled out what he wants, down to the number of square kilometers: 6,205. He wants Israel back to the 1949 armistice line, with all of east Jerusalem, and, he noted, Gaza. I’ll come back to that.
Well, no way anyone in Israel would agree to that.
But then, the next day Ahmed Qurei , the PA negotiator, let it be known that the PA was amenable to a certain amount of flexibility — they would consider allowing Israel to keep a bit of land over the 1947 armistice line, in exchange for some land inside of Israel. Uh oh. How much flexibility?
Additionally, yesterday a senior spokeswoman for the EU told journalists in Brussels that the "right of return" must be included in all negotiations between Israel and the PA.
Never did trust the Europeans , but it’s getting worse. (More on this below.)
But today this is what we’re seeing:
Syria has decided not to come to the conference because the Golan will not be on the table.
The Arab League is also highly dubious about attending. Its members are not going to come unless they get "guarantees" from Israel and a timetable. They are opposed to open-ended talks with Israel. We Israelis don’t give enough, you see.
Said the Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, " All what they [the Americans] want, as some say, is that the [Saudi Foreign Minister] Saud al-Faisal shake hands with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, that the two take pictures. This is a joke, it’s not serious."
Lebanese Prime Minister Saniora then called invitations to the conference "worthless and ineffective."
Fine, they should all stay home.
PA negotiator Saeb Erekat believes that if a deal is not struck between Israel and the PA, the conference should not be held.
Here in Israel, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, who had shocked many by saying very recently that he would consider turning over some Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PA, has backtracked, having undoubtedly gotten an earful from various quarters. Now he explains that the neighborhoods he had in mind are peripheral neighborhoods that are within the municipal boundaries but not areas that he sees as truly part of Jerusalem. As to what is Jerusalem, he is absolutely against giving any of it up. In fact, he told Quartet ME Envoy Tony Blair that any attempt to put the core issues on the agenda at the conference could cause a breakup of the coalition.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) similarly told Blair that "We cannot go from the end to the beginning. We must not yet deal with the core issues and definitely not with Jerusalem." Mofaz didn’t think Israel needed to make long-term pledges and promises, either.
This sounds a reassuring note. What concerns me is not what the Arabs want from us, it’s how our own government copes with those demands. The heartbreak comes from Jews who are supposed to be our leaders and who don’t know when to say no, and how to protect what is ours.
Someone whose own heart has been breaking over this is MK Ruby Rivlin (Likud), a seventh generation Jerusalemite, who made an impassioned appeal in the Knesset this week, addressing himself to Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu and pointing out to them the opportunity they now have (by pulling out of the government) to save the nation. Paralleling their position to Esther in the story of Purim, he said, "Your election was for this moment."
"Don’t you realize that the moment we retreat from one of our fundamental beliefs and dreams, there will no longer be or remain the Zionist entity that we so much wanted to see as the sprouting of our Redemption?
"…you, members of Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu , please: You must realize that you were elected to protect this dream without which we cannot exist – for it is not a dream; it has come true, and if it again becomes a dream that we can just give up, Heaven forbid, then we will get to the point where we will be told to give up all our dreams, and mainly the dream of [this] beginning of the sprouting of our Redemption."
And it does the heart good to know there are still people in the government who care thus.
That goes as well for MK Benny Elon (NU), who held a press conference yesterday, to announce his Israel Initiative to the foreign media. His vision is clear and he said so very many things that need to be said — things that politicians are afraid to say. This signals the start of something good, and I will return to what he said to focus on it more extensively.
Here I want to turn briefly to the issue of Hamas.
When Abbas announced how much land he wanted, he included Gaza. This caught my eye and I wondered what was afoot. Why would he stipulate this to Israel, when Gaza is not in our hands? I felt certain that he had a hidden agenda.
Today Abbas declared that he has rejected talks with Hamas. But, call me an old cynic, I don’t believe him for a second. Unaffiliated Palestinian sources say that Fatah official Jibril al-Rajoub met senior Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal to discuss holding talks in Egypt. While Haniyeh in Gaza said serious efforts to resume talks — which Hamas is seeking — are underway.
What concerned me is that this may be a gambit to gain legitimacy for Hamas via the back door. And guess what? A spokeswoman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana has now said that the EU would continue to support Abbas even if he reconciled with Hamas:
"We tell [Abbas] he has to do what he thinks is right. On this issue, we will not take the lead."
What makes this entire situation even more schizoid is that Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky says that the time of restraint is drawing to an end and soon the IDF will have to enter Gaza and remain several months.
How do we negotiate with an Abbas who is reconciling with Hamas when we’ll be attacking Hamas in Gaza? Could it be that Hamas thinks reconciliation with Fatah will protect them from such attack?
Or, could it be that the mere suggestion of negotiations under these conditions is ludicrous?
Also today, Adnan Husseini, aide to the Palestinian Authority president, said that the PA should control the Kotel, the Western Wall: "This is part of Islamic heritage that cannot be given up, and it must be under
A totally ludicrous statement as the Wall is a retaining wall for the Temple Mount, built in fact before the founding of Islam. Indicative of the gross misrepresentations that are typical of the PA, it also answers my question about how much flexibility the PA is likely to exhibit. Very little indeed. And that’s good news, for it causes Israelis to close ranks.
MK Uri Ariel (NU) is circulating a petition to MKs seeking 40 signatures necessary for a special Knesset session with the prime minister about his plans for the summit.
"I would be happy if the prime minister delayed the summit, because there is a lot to lose and nothing to gain," Elkin said. "There is too much US pressure to achieve results at Israel’s expense."
Much more to discuss shortly….