ramon press conf 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Justice Minister Haim Ramon said on Tuesday night that he doesn't see any chance of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority leading anywhere and therefore the government's Realignment Plan is a foregone conclusion.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in his round of diplomatic meetings in the US, Egypt, Britain and France, promised leaders that he would seriously pursue negotiations with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) before embarking upon realignment.
Ramon's speech at Tel Aviv University was the first open admission by a senior government minister that these negotiations are basically pointless and that Israel would only be undertaking them to placate the international community.
"The prime minister thinks that he has to say to Abu Mazen, 'Are you capable of conducting negotiations with us?'"
Ramon was responding to a question on why Olmert promised to negotiate if the government is already intent on realignment.
"He will say to him, 'Please fulfill the demands of the international community, end the terror, recognize Israel and stand by the agreements that you signed with us.' If he [the Palestinian Authority] can fulfill these conditions, I will be surprised and very happy. As a commentator, I'm telling you that I don't think this will happen. This week's events only emphasize that. It's not only the Gaza Strip; he also has no control over Judea and Samaria. Fifty percent of the terror attacks there are carried out by Fatah [the movement nominally headed by Abbas]. I'm not even talking about Hamas and Islamic Jihad."
Earlier in his lecture Ramon said, "There is no other alternative [to realignment]. I would love to go into an air conditioned room with Abu Mazen in the knowledge that he is capable of giving an order and the Palestinians would listen to him."
Ramon was talking at a symposium on "Defining the Permanent Borders of Israel" organized by the Department of Geography and Human Environment of Tel Aviv University and the Department of Politics and Government of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.
Ramon was the only politician to speak at the event that was mainly concerned with the theoretical and practical aspects of border drawing and management. The experts discussed a wider range of geographical, economic, planning, public opinion and security aspects of borders, but the backdrop to the event was the Kadima government's Realignment Plan.
Prof. Tamar Harman of Tel Aviv University presented recent opinion polls that showed growing public support for unilateral retreat from most of the West Bank and also for transferring concentrations of Israeli Arabs, especially in Wadi Ara, to Palestinian sovereignty.
Ramon robustly made the case for realignment, saying that the only alternative was the de facto annexation of the West Bank, which would inevitably lead to a Palestinian demand for "one man - one vote" and an end to the Jewish state or turning Israel into a pariah state.
He responded to the speaker preceding him, Prof. Uzi Arad of the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, who severely criticized the government for claiming that it was going to decide Israel's "permanent" border, when it was clear that these would have no international legitimacy.
"When we converge to the settlement blocs," Ramon promised, "I believe that those will be the permanent borders, give or take a percent."