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.
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
Olmert denies this. However, he did propose that thousands of
Arab refugees be allowed to come into Israel on a humanitarian basis.
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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
There is no other rational explanation for the
total, vehement rejection of the far-reaching proposals by two previous Israeli
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.
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