Despite it all, still committed to peace
By GERSHON BASKIN
That was the logic of Oslo: Israel would withdraw from territory and turn it over to the Palestinians who would guarantee Israel’s security by fighting against terrorism.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas told the French President Francois
Hollande that if Israel releases weapons for his security forces and releases
Palestinian prisoners he would be willing to meet in public with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu. This statement is very peculiar.
Both the demands and
the promised outcome require a bit of analysis and inquiry.
Abbas has conditioned meeting Netanyahu on political demands: freezing
settlement building and adopting the Obama statement that the permanent borders
would be based on the 1967 lines with agreed territorial swaps. It seems that
these two elements remain the Palestinian conditions for renewing negotiations.
The Palestinians have not dropped those two basic demands because the logic
behind them has only become more compelling in light of recent decisions of the
government of Israel to build more houses in settlements which are outside of
the main settlement blocs.
The Palestinian logic is that without ceasing
settlement building, how is it possible to speak about a future Palestinian
state that would meet the minimal compromises of the Palestinian position in the
last decades? Settlement building literally removes the base for the
establishment of a Palestinian state. The demand to freeze settlement building
was not a Palestinian design but rather one of President George W. Bush and
appears in his own Road Map for Peace.
Just a couple of days ago I heard
former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, Attorney Dov Weissglass,
tell the Dutch foreign minister in a private lunch that while the Palestinians
fulfilled just about all of their Road Map obligations, the State of Israel
hasn’t even begun to address its obligations in that Bushinspired document. So
from the Palestinian perspective, if Israel has not yet implemented its
obligations from 2003 what sense does it make to believe that Israel will
implement new obligations within the framework of new negotiations now in 2012?
Abbas will not drop those basic politic demands, but perhaps a new formula
devised by Harvard University’s Alan Dershowitz could help. Prof. Dershowitz
suggested that a settlement freeze would be enforced while negotiations were
taking place and would remain in place until the parties agree to a border
Once there is an agreed-to border Israel would be free to
build as much as it wanted in those settlements that would be annexed to the
State of Israel. To me, this seems to make a lot of sense. It is not all that
often that I adopt an idea presented by Alan Dershowitz! Regarding Abbas’s new
requests, I am quite sure that many Israelis recall the slogan “we gave them
guns and then they shot at us.”
First of all, Israel never gave the
Palestinians guns, but that is really trivial. Israel agreed that the
Palestinians would require a robust police-security force in order to fight
terrorism, fight the extremists from within and to ensure their part of the
bargain of the Oslo deal which was to provide security in exchange for receiving
That was the logic of Oslo: Israel would withdraw from
territory and turn it over to the Palestinians who would guarantee Israel’s
security by fighting against terrorism.
According to their understanding,
they should have received more than 90 percent of the West Bank prior to the
talks on final status. From their point of view, Israel reneged on its promise
of withdrawal and Palestinians began to feel that they were subcontractors for
providing security for settlers who were taking their land. That is where the
logic of Oslo collapsed and that is why when the whole package imploded the
first Palestinians to use their weapons against Israel were the Palestinian
security forces, which were carrying weapons with Israel’s
Since then a lot of blood has been shed and a lot of
destruction has occurred. The massive use of force by Israel after “defensive
shield” created real deterrence. The death of Arafat and his replacement by
Mahmoud Abbas and Abbas’s election on a platform recognizing the disaster of the
militarized second intifada and a clear political ideology based on peace with
Israel enabled Abbas to fulfill his main Road Map commitments of dismantling the
infrastructure of terrorism in the territories under his control.
is no argument whatsoever from the Israeli security officials that Abbas has
done the job. He has created a new environment in the West Bank. He collected
weapons and turned them over the Israel. He retired hundreds of security
officials who were not completely loyal to the new doctrine.
advanced an American- E u r o p e a n supported plan to train new security
officers and to deploy them throughout the West Bank.
Just this week the
Israeli media reported that PA security forces conducted an arrest raid in the
Nablus arresting a number of suspected weapons traffickers and other criminals,
some of whom are employed by the PA. Law and order has been established
throughout the West Bank.
It should be clear that the Palestinians are
not doing this because they love Israel. They are fighting terrorism because
they know it will destroy them if they do not.
Now Abbas has told
Netanyahu that he cannot deploy two new brigades of US-trained troops because he
does not have weapons for them. Today there is one rifle with bullets for every
12 Palestinian security men. They cannot do the job without the necessary
equipment. Abbas has said in private that he can smuggle the weapons into the
West Bank – it is no great challenge.
He has even said that Israeli
criminal elements are more than willing to sell weapons to the Palestinians, but
he will not do this. He will only allow the weapons into the West Bank with
Israel’s approval and cooperation. He says this, because despite all of the
opposing messages he gets from Israel’s government, Mahmoud Abbas is still
committed to peace with Israel.
Prime minister Ehud Olmert promised Abbas
that 131 prisoners in Israeli jails who have been there since prior to the
establishment of the PA would be released. He also said that he would release
more prisoners to Abbas than Hamas would get in the Schalit deal.
of these promises were fulfilled. Abbas is not willing to accept empty promises
any more. You want to negotiate peace, great, first fulfill your promises from
before. What is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mantra? You give, you get, you don’t
give, you don’t get. It goes both ways.
The writer is the co-chairman of
IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for
The Jerusalem Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and
negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.