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Palestinian declaration: solution not end conflict

During the negotiations orchestrated by President Clinton in 2001, Arafat said he would respond the next day to the latest offer from PM Ehud Barak. Barak never received a response and no formal reply was ever given by Arafat. Instead, the violence of the so-called second intifada was launched and no attempt was made to continue discussions.
Similarly, according to an extensive interview with former PM Ehud Olmert (see The Australian 28 Nov 2009), after over 35 meetings, Abbas promised to get back to him regarding the details of

Olmert’s proposals for a 2-state solution in 2008. That was the last Olmert heard from him.
Another feature of this interview was that it contained no mention of what the Palestinians would commit to for peace. There was no recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, no acceptance of legitimate Israeli defence needs, and no agreement to end the conflict. All Abbas did was walk away.

At a minimum, this would seem to show an urgent need to clarify exactly what would satisfy the Palestinians and bring an end to the conflict. It would seem to show a strong reason to pin-down precisely the extent of Palestinian willingness to accept Israel alongside a Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, serial walking away from proposals and the serial refusal to commit to an end to the conflict are not indications of either. Nor are the currently stated positions of the supposedly reasonable president-for-life Abbas, which state the following aims:

  • a Palestinian state based on 1967 ‘borders’ (that is, the 1949 cease-fire lines);
  • the ‘return’ of the Palestinian refugees from 1948 (defined in a unique way by the UN to include their far more numerous descendants);
  • refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Not the end of the conflict

There are three central problems for Israel with this. The first is that it would leave Israel much harder to defend. The second is that it would flood the Jewish state with enemies. The third is that it would keep open the conditions for the continuation of the conflict for Israel’s destruction – with Israel in a seriously disadvantaged position both politically and militarily. To put this in another way, it means that Palestinian retention of these demands is essentially a declaration that the supposed solution is not an end to the conflict. Instead, it is another stage of it.

In other words, walking away from the prospect of a Palestinian state based on the proposals of Barak and Olmert were not just examples of missed opportunities. They served the ‘best interests’ of the Palestinians as they themselves understand and define them. How? Because rather than being committed to a permanent accommodation with the ‘Zionist entity’, they ensured the preservation of the aim of eventually eliminating it.

Additionally, when the status of Jerusalem, control of the Jordan valley and a host of other issues are considered, it’s not too difficult to see that President Obama’s belief in a peace agreement in two years is wildly out of touch with reality.

In sum, the ‘best interests’ of the Palestinians need to be viewed in a different light. That is, they do not want a state just like everyone else. They only want it by destroying another. This explains the so-called missed opportunities (see Driving Force of Palestinian Politics #1 ).

Olmert’s view of Abbas

A further notable feature of the Olmert interview was that he said he believed that Abbas himself was willing to accept Israel and make peace. Presumably, if Abbas had wanted the deal and was in a position to accept it he would have done so. But he didn’t. So his personal preferences are neither here nor there. In any case, no evidence was given to indicate the truth of Olmert’s statement.

More probably, Abbas didn’t want the deal. But even if he did, he had no mandate to agree to it. Likewise, Olmert had no mandate for an agreement to his proposals.

In short, it was an ‘offer’ from someone who couldn’t make it to someone who couldn’t accept it. This means that whatever the views of the participants, the real function of the negotiations boiled down to diplomatic dancing as each side probed the other to see how far they would go. In effect, they were testing to see if the basic underlying situation had changed. It obviously hadn’t.

Jon Dyson

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