Encountering Peace: The leader and the leaderless
What Palestinian Authority chairman had to say to the people of Israel in his interview on Channel 2 on Friday night, I heard months ago in private meetings with him, following which I wrote detailed reports and analysis for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Channel 2 Photo: Screenshot
What Palestinian Authority chairman had to say to the people of Israel in his
interview on Channel 2 on Friday night, I heard months ago in private meetings
with him, following which I wrote detailed reports and analysis for Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Just to recap his main points for any who
may have missed the interview:
1. As long as he is chairman of the PA, there
will be no third intifada and no return to violence.
2. The Palestinians
recognize Israel in the 1967 borders, but he also said that he has agreed to
territorial swaps that will modify the borders between the two states.
Palestine is the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, for now and
4. He has no intention of returning to his birthplace, Safed,
more than hinting that Palestinians who want to return to Palestine should come
to the Palestinian state.
5. He and former prime minister Ehud Olmert
made great progress. If he were to return to negotiations, a full comprehensive
agreement can be reached. The gaps with Olmert were mainly on the territorial
question – the delineation of the border (the 1967 issue) and not on the 1948
issues – recognition, Jerusalem and refugees.
Now I will add some of the
things Abbas told me in private, and that I passed on to Netanyahu.
prepared to return to negotiations without preconditions, if Netanyahu was
serious about reaching an agreement. Abbas was prepared to meet Netanyahu in
public if Netanyahu agreed to fulfill a promise that was made in the past and
not implemented – releasing some 123 Palestinian prisoners arrested prior to
Oslo in 1993.
In a probing discussion with him on the issue of Israel’s
security needs, Abbas said that the Palestinians under his leadership fully
understood Israel’s security concerns. He said that he was willing to accept
every single reasonable security demand that Israel made, include a
non-militarized state and an extended Israeli security presence along the
He said that together Israel, Palestine and Jordan were all
interested in fighting terrorism and had no interest in allowing radical
elements to penetrate into the West Bank. He explained that he would never allow
anyone to produce rockets in, or fire them from, the West Bank, understanding
the strategic threat that would pose to Israel and therefore also to the
I asked him what he would do if someone in the West Bank
kidnapped an Israeli soldier. He told me, without, hesitating, “I would find
them and I would kill them!” It is essential to tell the people of Israel what
he said about going to the United Nations. He admitted that the Palestinian
state can only be created through negotiations with Israel and not by a decision
of the United Nations. He knows that a General Assembly resolution will not
change the reality on the ground.
But he said Netanyahu was not willing
to negotiate on a basis any Palestinian leader could accept. He said there would
not be another Palestinian leader in the future with whom it will be easier to
reach an agreement.
Looking at the developments on the ground, the
increasing power of the settlers within Israeli politics and the continuous
movement of the Israeli public to the Right, he said we must do something to
preserve the two-state solution, because “there is no other solution to this
President Abbas said that a UN decision to accept Palestine as
a non-member state would not be a decision against Israel, that it would not
delegitimize Israel; quite the opposite.
“We do not seek to delegitimize
Israel; we only want to delegitimize the occupation of 1967,” he said.
November 29, 1947, the United Nations gave birth to two states in
Palestine/Eretz Yisrael – a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Palestinian
declaration of independence even makes mention of this explicitly.
was born in 1948. The Palestinians and the Arabs states made a historic mistake
and fought against the birth of Israel and in doing so, essentially fought
against the birth of the Arab state – Palestine. Going to the United Nation
sometime around November 29, 2012, is aimed at correcting that historic mistake
and laying the foundations for the two-state solution.
Abbas has said
that he is willing to return to negotiations immediately after the United
The issue of Palestinian statehood is against Israel;
Netanyahu says that he supports the creation of a Palestinian state next to
Israel. What must be negotiated is the border, the future of Jerusalem, the
refugee issue, the security arrangements, water and economic
The United Nations decision this month will not determine the
outcome of negotiations, but it may help to put us back on course toward
negotiating a genuine two-states solution.
Abbas contends that going to
the United Nations is not a unilateral step in contradiction to the Oslo
Let us remember that the Oslo agreements were based on a
five-year interim period meant to end in 2000 – 12 years ago. Oslo was not a
permanent status agreement, nor was it a peace agreement. It was an agreement on
a process and that process died years ago as a result of substantive breaches of
Israel crying “unilateralism” cannot be taken seriously by
anyone who has eyes in their head. The Israeli-Palestinian relationship is much
more based on unilateralism than on any kind of joint decision making or
Both sides can easily find just cause not to negotiate and
not to resolve the conflict.
The only problem with that idea (which is
essentially the status quo that we have been locked into) is that it is
completely and totally against the national security interests of both sides. It
is utterly insane on the part of both sides that they do not negotiate an end to
To resolve this conflict we need real leadership. Abbas
has once again demonstrated his leadership and his courage. Netanyahu, by not
responding seriously to Abbas, has once again proven his lack of
Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel
Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem
Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release
of Gilad Schalit.