Clarity on negotiations

ByBENNIE BEGIN
August 9, 2010 21:39

The Palestinians are after a ‘two-stage solution’ and not a two-state solution. There is no other rational explanation for the total, vehement rejection of the far-reaching proposals by two previous Israeli governments.

George Mitchell and Mahmoud Abbas

George Mitchell and Mahmoud Abbas 311. (photo credit:Madji Mohammed/AP)

Under the banner of the 2008 Annapolis process, the Israeli government and the PLO leadership failed to reach a lasting agreement.

According to Mahmoud Abbas, prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed that Israel withdraw from 98 percent of the total territory in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Actually, the deal encompassed 100 percent because the balance was to be swapped with some territory from inside the State of Israel proper.



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Olmert also proposed a safe passage between Gaza and Judea under Israeli sovereignty. According to Abbas, he also agreed that Israel recognize in principal the so-called “right of return.”

Olmert denies this. However, he did propose that thousands of Arab refugees be allowed to come into Israel on a humanitarian basis.


As for Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the partition of the city into two parts. The neighborhoods populated by Arabs would become a part of the capital of the Palestinian Arab sovereign state.

The Jewish neighborhoods would be retained under Israeli sovereignty. In addition, he proposed that Israel relinquish its sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, and the City of David – referred to by some as the “holy basin.” Israel’s rule of these areas would be replaced by a consortium that would administer them, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United States, the PLO, and Israel. This far-reaching proposal by Olmert – addressing borders, refugees and Jerusalem – was declined by the PLO.

ABBAS WAS asked in a Washington Post interview in May 2009 why he had declined Olmert’s proposal and his answer was: “the gaps were wide.” This truthfully reflects the situation because, from the PLO point of view, the gaps were indeed still wide.

During the negotiations in the Annapolis process, the PLO leadership was asked whether once an agreement was reached to the liking of both parties, it would agree to include an article stating that this agreement puts an end to the conflict and concludes all claims by the parties. That question was answered in the negative.

Why would Olmert’s proposal still leave wide gaps, so as to be unacceptable from the point of view of the PLO leadership only a year or so ago? The answer is that the PLO does not accept a situation of shared sovereignty in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount and its surroundings. Its goals is to have Arab-Palestinian-Muslim sovereignty at the site.

This is not just a whim of the current Palestinian leadership. In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak proposed that Israel relinquish its rule over the upper part of the Temple Mount to Arab-Palestinian sovereignty and that the lower part of the Temple Mount would be retained under Israeli sovereignty, but was rebuffed. The PLO assertion was that the whole Temple Mount should be under Arab-Muslim sovereignty.

The reason for this has been well explained by the PLO leadership, which is considered to be the moderate faction within the Palestinian camp. It actually denies the undeniable by saying that there is no historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount – that the stories about two Jewish temples destroyed 2,600 and 2,000 years ago is a fairy tale. Its basic tenet is that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Of course this also relates to Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Galilee, and the Negev. For them, there is no historic Jewish connection to any of these places.

The PLO leadership, in this respect, is consistent. This is its basic philosophy, and you will find its corollary in its adamant refusal to accept the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It explains openly that, for them, Judaism is not a nationality but merely a religion. Since Judaism is merely a religion, and since religions are not entitled to establish and maintain states of their own, then the State of Israel has no right to exist and they will not recognize it as such.

A YEAR ago, in August 2009, the Fatah Congress in Bethlehem reaffirmed its platform, referring to Chapter One of its charter as the point of departure for its policy. Article 19 in Chapter One states: “Armed struggle is a strategy, not a tactic. The armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a crucial element in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence.

This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.”

For Fatah, then, there is a “Zionist entity,” not the Jewish nation deserving its one and only sovereign state on earth.

As long as this is left as something that cannot be changed and maybe need not be changed, it will be there.

Unless the leadership of our neighbors changes its view, very little will be achieved in the foreseeable future regarding a peace agreement between Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan River.

Where is the agreement by the PLO to come to terms with reality and to agree in some way to the minimum requirements of any sober Israeli faction in the Knesset? Abbas maintains that Olmert offered him too little.

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the leader the opposition, would tell you that Olmert offered him too much. Under this geometry, an agreement cannot be achieved unless the PLO leadership changes its minds.

Unless people impress upon them that they should do so, I don’t see this happening.

In June 2009, the Quartet issued a statement that for the first time included the political term “two states for two peoples” as a proposed solution. This is not my solution, but this is agreed to by many – just not by the PLO. The PLO leadership and activists never say that the solution entails two nations.

However, in March 2010 in another Quartet statement issued in Moscow, mention of a two-state solution for two peoples vanished. It was made only of the Palestinian people, without bringing up the Jewish people. What kind of a signal does that send? WHEN PEOPLE ask what the government of Israel can be expected to offer to the PLO, we may refer them to the fact that previous Israeli governments offered to relinquish Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and parts of Jerusalem, to no avail. People must recognize this. The Palestinian leadership insists that negotiations now start at the point they had reached with Olmert at the end of 2008. That means they are not satisfied with what was put on the table a year ago. This means that they want more than that.

The Palestine Liberation Organization seeks the liberation of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which is why its true aim is not a twostate solution but a two-stage solution.

In stage one it tries to push Israel to the 1949 armistice lines. In stage two, it will push for the insertion of hundreds of thousands of refugees into the State of Israel, to “liberate Palestine.”

There is no other rational explanation for the total, vehement rejection of the far-reaching proposals by two previous Israeli governments.

Unless there is a profound change in thinking, the only thing to do is what we have been doing – trying to improve the lives of both Jews and Arabs.

My position rests on two moral pillars: the natural and historical right of the Jewish people to its homeland, Israel, which of course extends beyond the artificial armistice demarcation line of 1949; and the right of Israeli citizens to national security.

From the right of Jews to their ancient homeland ensues their right to dwell and build their homes in Jerusalem, in Samaria and in Judea. It has been proven time and again that if you try to detach these two basic rights, the result is loss of Israeli lives.

By relinquishing Jericho, Gaza, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, and Kalkilya to the PLO under the Oslo agreements, and thus putting our security in their hands, we created havens of impunity for terrorism that tragically resulted in the second intifada. In 2005, another attempt was made to detach these two rights, by unilaterally relinquishing Gaza, and the result was the launching of hundreds of rockets towards Israel.

Let me conclude with a quotation by my father, prime minister Menachem Begin. When he went to Washington over thirty years ago, he said that he was coming to Washington, D.C., District of Columbia, from Jerusalem, D.C., David’s Capital. This still directs us, to a large extent, in our activities in Jerusalem – David’s Capital.

The writer is currently minister without portfolio and a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s forum of seven senior ministers. This article is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem in April. It was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is reprinted with permission.

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