How not to build a Palestinian state

How not to build a Pales

abbas please stay 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas please stay 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Committee yesterday extended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's term until new elections are held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - elections in which Abbas reiterated that he would not run. The Palestinian leader is now officially a lame duck. That's not an insult. Many renowned international leaders achieved their greatest accomplishments when it was clear that they were about to exit the world's stage. In Israel, it has been lame duck leaders with nothing left to lose who have offered the Palestinians the best offers they have received. On January 23, 2001, just two weeks before an election that then prime minister Ehud Barak knew he would lose, his representatives at the Taba Conference offered the Palestinians 92 percent of the West Bank, plus three percent of pre-1967 Israel in a land swap. The Israeli delegation also agreed to accept up to 150,000 Palestinian refugees on humanitarian grounds. In his meetings with Abbas last year, lame duck prime minister Ehud Olmert offered him 94.5% of the West Bank and another 5.5% of pre-1967 Israel in land swaps, including a corridor between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Olmert also offered to accept thousands of refugees and to internationalize Jerusalem's Holy Basin. For his part, though no lame duck, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has taken several steps toward Abbas by accepting a two-state solution, imposing a 10-month construction moratorium and removing two-thirds of the security checkpoints in the West Bank. Netanyahu has proven that he is willing to go further than people expected before he returned to the Prime Minister's Office. He has indicated that this pattern will continue if Abbas would simply sit down with him and begin negotiations. Listening to what the Israeli prime minister has to offer is necessary for the betterment of the Palestinian people. And Abbas personally? He is a lame duck. He has nothing to lose by taking steps that could bring his people to statehood and leave him veritably revered internationally. Yet Abbas seems to not appreciate the opportunity. In his speech to the PLO Central Committee in Ramallah on Tuesday, he announced that the Palestinians would not resume peace talks with Israel unless the international community recognized the 1967 borders as the boundaries of a Palestinian state - a new precondition for negotiations, joining his demand for a halt to all construction work in the settlements and eastern Jerusalem. Abbas said that the Palestinians and Arabs would seek a resolution from the United Nations Security Council that determines the borders of the Palestinian state within the territories occupied in 1967. "Once there's an international recognition of the 1967 borders and settlement construction is stopped, we will go to the negotiations," he said. THAT'S EXACTLY what world leaders should not do if they hope to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Instead, the international community would serve Israeli, Palestinian and wider international interests were they to tell Abbas categorically that he must negotiate borders without preconditions and that he is wrong to think he can wait for an imposed settlement. This is especially true of US President Barack Obama who, even in his short term in office, has seen Israel taking step after cautious step to reach out to the Palestinians while Abbas has done nothing. Responsible world leaders should now focus on persuading Abbas to reach out to the people of Israel by accepting Israel as a Jewish state (not to be flooded, that is, with millions of Palestinians) that a Palestinian state would not try to destroy. They should also urge him to call upon self-proclaimed defenders of the Palestinians in Britain and around the world to stop their cynical lawsuits against Israeli leaders, which do nothing to advance peace or the welfare of the Palestinian people. Such steps would indicate that the Palestinian leader intends to take advantage of his final months in power to work seriously toward a viable accommodation. Lame duck or not, Abbas should stop ducking his responsibility - to his people and to ours.