olmert abbas sharm 298.8.
(photo credit: AP)
There is a point to the talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas only if both parties realize that there is no point to them. There is a point to them because it is a good thing to strive for peace; and in the absence of talks a vacuum is created, drawing in despair, which serves the interests of the extremists.
There is no point to the talks because ultimately they lead nowhere, being an exercise in futility that will never culminate in an agreement. The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria will carry on without the benefit of a formal agreement, as they have until now.
The die was cast when Israel withdrew from Gush Katif. It was a historic step, a sacrifice that shook Israeli society.
The Palestinians' response was not long in coming: They stepped up the Kassam fire and elected Hamas, establishing a regime that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and is unwilling to concede its armed struggle until Israel is completely defeated.
THE ISRAELI public has learned its lesson. It has learned that every Israeli concession boomerangs against us, that the Palestinians prefer suffering and war to prosperity and peace, that there is no one to talk to and nothing that can be trusted: not Oslo, Camp David, Madrid or the withdrawal from Gush Katif. The Israeli peace camp has imploded and the Right is gloating, "We told you so!"
Abbas cannot give up the "right of return" or a single inch of land beyond the 1967 borders because if he does, he will not survive. And Olmert, even if he wanted to, could not close an deal with him because of two ironclad principles: Israel cannot make concession to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria because Hamas could take over Ramallah at any moment, just as it did in Gaza.
Abbas would be removed from power, Ismail Haniyeh would be declared the president of Free Palestine, women would be ordered to veil their faces, men to grow beards, and the Kassam rockets - and eventually Katyusha rockets too - would land not only on Sderot but on Netanya and Kfar Saba. And on Ben-Gurion airport, cutting off Israel's air connection with the world.
This is a scenario neither Olmert nor Ehud Barak (who has already said so explicitly) can afford.
THE SECOND principle that precludes the possibility of a permanent settlement is that there is no government in Israel, nor will there be one in the foreseeable future, capable of evacuating a quarter of a million, or 100,000, or even 50,000 settlers. Some of them might agree to leave for the sake of peace and others in return for compensation; but the hard core of the settlers, which numbers tens of thousands of religious and secular people, will neither move nor give in, even at the price of civil war.
Hebron is not Gush Katif. For Gush Katif, they weep; for Hebron, they will fight. Last week we all saw how hundreds of police and thousands of soldiers were needed to evacuate just a handful of settlers from a couple of homes. Who would be able to evacuate all the settlers from all the homes, and how could it be done? No government could promise to do so - and if it did, it would never be able to keep that promise.
Giving in to the settlers is a shameful capitulation to the use of force and the deterioration of the rule of law. It is a victory for the zealots that will haunt us for all time. But that is the reality in which we live - a destructive, insane one; but reality nonetheless.
Olmert and Abbas can talk until they're blue in the face. The Beduin say that the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. In this case, the peace caravan isn't going anywhere.