With the Syrian thriller and its spin-off machinations keeping us on the edge of
our seats, who had time to even notice, much less care about, the volubility of
Ramallah’s honchos? Too much distracting din made it difficult to pay much mind
to Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority cronies. But this didn’t keep
them from babbling, and what they revealed deserved our attention – even if the
utterances in question weren’t the sort the more politically correct in our
midst prefer we dwell on.
The Palestinian Al-Hayat al-Jadida daily quoted
Abbas as bluntly issuing the following ultimatum when addressing a visiting Arab
athletic delegation: “We told the present Israeli negotiators that if you want
to go back on what was agreed with [former Israeli premier Ehud] Olmert, we will
go back on our agreement for a land swap and so we will ask for all of the 1967
land as is.”
Elaborating further, Abbas claimed that Olmert at the time
asked for territorial exchanges amounting to 6 percent of Judea and Samaria,
while the Palestinians wouldn’t go beyond 1.9%.
According to another PA
daily, Al-Quds, Abbas asserted that the current Americansponsored negotiations
revolve around fixing borders and that “the Palestinian position is based on the
understandings reached with Olmert.
However, the Israelis now want to
scrap the understandings reached on borders with Olmert.” He threatened to
resume unilateral initiatives at the UN.
Abbas was echoed by senior Fatah
official Nabil Sha’ath, who told Ma’an News Agency that “Israel has not proposed
anything so far. Since the talks resumed, Israel had showed no flexibility, with
some Israeli negotiators even suggesting talks begin from scratch. The Israeli
side does not recognize any of the agreements signed previously including Oslo
and the road map plan which the Palestinian side has fully
He added: “Israel wants the US to remain as its ally and
not as a mediator in talks, which is why Israel opposes the presence of US envoy
Martin Indyk during sessions.”
The secretary-general of the Palestine
Liberation Organization Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, contributed his
two cents during an interview with the Voice of Palestine: “until now there has
been no progress. Without American pressure on Israel no breakthrough will be
Israel was also upbraided for seeking to derail the talks by
raising security issues and for having allegedly proposed a Palestinian state
within temporary borders on roughly 60% of the territory Ramallah demands. This
was summarily rejected because “the principle of a Palestinian state on the
entire disputed territory must be accepted first.”
And, lest we forget,
numerous PA mouthpieces insist that the phased release of 104 convicted
murderers (which Abbas secured for his mere consent parley) must continue no
matter how negotiations turn out. And there’s more: the PA now wants 250 others
ALL THIS chatter led Jerusalem to lodge a stiff complaint with
Washington over the incessant leaks from Palestinian interlocutors.
talks were launched under the understanding that nothing would be divulged about
what was being deliberated – not even technical details – and that only the US
could brief the media.
So in a way, we need to be grateful for this Arab
gabbiness, skewed and tendentious though it is. Ramallah’s breach of secrecy
puts us on alert, which is better than being kept entirely in the dark. The
above jibber-jabber happens to be instructive.
Here are its essential
points: 1. No past concession is ever fully relegated to the past – not even
Olmert’s extremely egregious territorial generosity at the very end of his term.
He went even further in his offers than Ehud Barak did in 2000.
Olmert’s extreme largesse, too, was brusquely rebuffed. Nothing was agreed to
and nothing was finalized, much less signed. All that doesn’t prevent Abbas from
cheekily misrepresenting the rejected Olmert proposal as a done deal that
obliges Israel and all its future governments.
2. No concession ever
suffices; they only whet the appetite for more – i.e. the aim to force Israel to
release yet more convicted mass-murderers, regardless of whether the
negotiations get anywhere.
3. It was naive to hope that negotiations
and/or an interim deal could fend off more unilateral PA stunts at the UN and
other international forums. This is now the whip with which to beat Israel into
4. Territorial compromise is hardly doable. Abbas plainly
aims for all or nothing – the 1949 armistice lines (a.k.a. the 1967 non-border)
5. The very fact that US envoy Martin Indyk partakes in
negotiating sessions in and of itself negates the principle of direct talks. It
means that each side will appeal to him, that the US is an active player in the
process, that Indyk is an adjudicator/mediator at best – which is bad enough. In
reality, he can mix things up and impose socalled compromises. This –
considering the dynamic that Israel always gives and the Palestinians merely
have to deign to take – will perforce operate to Israel’s detriment.
A REALITY once well grasped by all Israeli leaders – on either side of the
political divide. Hence historically their insistence on direct talks was
nothing less than cardinal. A succession of foreign emissaries and politicos
came and went but Israel consistently recoiled from the notion of shuttle
diplomacy, go-betweens or overseers such as Indyk.
At first this
principle steadfastly guided even the misguided progenitors of the Oslo folly.
But two decades of making one existentially risky concession after another
existentially risky concession – of erasing one declaratively inedible red line
after another, drawing new “red lines” but deleting these in turn again – have
eroded that underlying resolve.
To be fair, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu inherited an unenviable legacy.
The Osloites stealthily ushered
another Arab Palestinian state into the original territory once designated as
Palestine, some 80% of which is already Arab (even if it parades under the
wholly artificial name of Jordan).
This contradicted Israel’s long-time
stance, best enunciated by Golda Meir: “Israel and Jordan were the two
state-successors to the British Mandate. There is no room for a third.... A
Palestinian state between us and Jordan can only become a base to make it even
more convenient to attack and destroy Israel.”
Barak, in his catastrophic
stint as premier, established the ever-insidious model of total Israeli
withdrawal back to the 1949 green-tinted lines. Later Olmert shockingly
reinforced the Barak precedent. This, coupled with Washington’s most
antagonistic administration ever, left Netanyahu in dire circumstances and with
powerful incentives to just please the hectoring, censorious chorus out
Giving in is the easy thing to do. But if past experience has
taught us any lesson, it’s that buying time via “painful concessions” doesn’t
work. Concessions self-evidently become the new square-one for ensuing haggling
History suffers no vacuums. Every retreat spawns yet another
retreat, triggering a negative dynamic. Oslo elicited universal acceptance of a
third state in original Palestine (the second Arab one), which forced Israel
into increasingly defensive negotiating postures, culminating in Barak’s
Ariel Sharon subsequently expelled Jews and razed 25
veteran, thriving settlements. Then, on paper, Olmert ceded most remaining
settlements. The security fence was essentially moved to 1949’s Green
Next (and this, significantly, under Netanyahu) Israel temporarily
froze Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, thereby implying that it somehow
concedes that the settlements are illegitimate. But even that failed to satisfy.
Each concession breeds another and thus Jerusalem was targeted and Jewish
residence came under fire in a city which boasted a very massive Jewish majority
already since the first census was taken there early in the 19th
Bargaining, which we assumed would be about agreed boundaries
within the territories we were forced to take in the course of our self-defense
in 1967, turned out to be about the 1949 line of exhaustion demarcated to end of
the War of Independence imposed on us.
Beyond that lies an older Arab
claim for the 1947 UN partition lines which Arabs rejected violently, thereby
sparking that War of Independence. And raging ferociously before that was the
antebellum debate about whether any Jewish state ought to exist, which is what
fueled that violent Arab opposition in 1947.
The same animus still
foments Arab refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or to forgo the
“right” to inundate that Jewish state with untold millions of hostile Arabs
who’ll destroy its continued existence as a Jewish state.
serially drew back from its positions in order to appease America and/or to coax
Arabs into some modicum of accommodation, Arab orientations during all that time
hadn’t budged a fraction of a millimeter.
Their only modifications were
Instead of eradicating Israel in one fell swoop (which they
didn’t do only because they couldn’t), they settled on slicing Israel’s salami
bit by bit to deprive it of strategic depth, render it more vulnerable to
predations and erode it by demonization and demoralization.
premise remains that at most the de facto existence of the unwanted “Zionist
entity” is acknowledged provisionally, that this entity must shrink and that
Arabs have a right to deluge it.
Whenever we concede even a theoretical
point, we imbue Arab obstructionism with an aura of righteous respectability in
the (kangaroo) court of world opinion. We irreversibly undermine our own
That’s why it’s taken for granted internationally that Israel must
be squeezed into the 1949 lines. Global discourse now dwells on whether there’s
any justification at all for a Jewish state.
We have indeed come a long
way – backwards.
By rushing recklessly headlong to resolve a conflict not
of our making, we ended up returning to its very origins – the aspiration to
eradicate the Jewish state.
Have we anything to show for decades of
regression? Not much if we judge by the revelations from Ramallah. Yet they are
among the few things these days we can be thankful
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book,
was published this year by Gefen.