As of this writing, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is still refusing to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And given recent media reports about the Obama administration's planned peace initiative, one can understand why: If they are true, he has no reason to bother negotiating with Netanyahu. All he has to do is sit and wait, and in two years, the international community will give him everything he wants on a silver platter.
The plan in question was first broached publicly by the European Union's foreign policy czar, Javier Solana, at a speech in London in July. The international community should set a deadline for negotiations, Solana said, and if no agreement is reached by this deadline, the world should immediately recognize a Palestinian state, admit it to the UN and announce its own solution to all outstanding issues (borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security arrangements), along with a binding timetable for implementation.
Washington never publicly endorsed this idea. But this week, it was reported that Solana floated his trial balloon with backing from "the highest levels of the US administration," and that the US indeed plans to adopt it - with some twists that make it even worse.
Specifically, Washington will announce a two-year deadline for talks that will focus mainly on borders. If no agreement is reached by then, the US and EU - and presumably the rest of the world, too - will recognize a Palestinian state with borders "based on" the June 4, 1967 lines.
IN OTHER words, Abbas will receive international recognition of the borders he has consistently demanded, the 1967 lines - and by implication, also east Jerusalem, which was not Israeli pre-1967. The announcement will say the parties "may" alter the border via territorial exchanges, but that is up to them: The world will not insist.
And in exchange, he will have to concede absolutely nothing - not the settlement blocs, not Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, not the Western Wall, not security arrangements, not the "right of return," not recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Some of these will be awarded him outright; others, like the refugees and recognition, will be left to future negotiations. But he would obviously have no incentive to compromise in these future negotiations, since the only thing Israel has to trade is land, and the international community will already have awarded him every inch of that.
In contrast, even an EU diktat would have mandated Palestinian concessions on some issues, like the "right of return." Moreover, Solana's original plan stipulated that implementation of the international diktat would constitute a definitive, internationally recognized end to all Palestinian claims. This version does nothing of the sort, since it leaves major issues like the refugees up in the air.
Thus from Abbas's perspective, this is a dream come true: He receives international recognition of a state in his preferred borders without having to make any concessions in exchange. Even Hamas could this embrace this deal. They could simply pocket their gains and move on to their next demands.
But if merely doing nothing for two years would produce such a bonanza, why would any sane Palestinian leader bother negotiating? Granted, the fact that this plan was reported in the media does not mean it is true. First, journalists' sources always have their own agendas, and the European sources behind this report could easily have presented an idea that is merely being considered as settled policy - either with Washington's consent, as a trial balloon, or without such consent, in an effort to pressure the US to adopt it. Second, even if Obama does favor this plan, wiser heads within his administration might yet prevail.
NEVERTHELESS, THERE are reasons to fear it might be true. First, Washington has not denied it. Second, it accords with Obama's known desire to create a Palestinian state within two years, thus assuring him of one foreign policy success in what otherwise looks likely to be an unbroken string of failures. Third, it would appease his left-wing base, which is currently furious at him over issues ranging from the "surge" in Afghanistan to his apparent willingness to make concessions to moderates on health care reform. Fourth, it would please the EU and the Muslim world, and Obama has made better relations with both a major goal of his foreign policy.
Finally, he has even found a way to avoid alienating his big-ticket Jewish donors: The media reports market the plan as being based, inter alia, on ideas presented by Israel's very own president, Shimon Peres. What Jewish donor could possibly object to that? That Peres's proposal actually called for a Palestinian state in temporary borders - which, until a deal was finalized, would comprise only part of the West Bank and would exclude east Jerusalem - is a mere bagatelle.
Indeed, the plan has only one drawback: Far from bringing peace, it would perpetuate the conflict for all eternity. If 16 years of deadly terror combined with refusing to budge an inch on any of their demands could produce such stellar results, why would any Palestinian want to abandon these successful tactics?
Thus they will continue the terror, and Israel will continue its counterterrorism operations. They will continue refusing to make concessions on the settlement blocs, Jerusalem and the refugees, and Israel will continue refusing to evacuate tens of thousands of settlers with no quid pro quo. They will continue teaching their children that the Jewish state has no right to exist, and Israeli attitudes toward the Palestinians and the "peace process" will continue to harden.
It would require massive self-centeredness, and massive short-sightedness, to sacrifice any chance of lasting peace for the sake of a momentary foreign policy "achievement." But that is exactly what this plan would do.