Friday, July 9, 2010

Constructive Clarity in Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

Benny Begin
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Vol. 10, No. 3
7 July '10

-The PLO platform, as reaffirmed in the Fatah Congress in August 2009, states that their struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated. As a logical corollary, they refuse to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

-This explains why, when Mahmoud Abbas was asked in a Washington Post interview in May 2009 why he had declined Olmert's far-reaching offer, he answered that "the gaps were wide."

-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. They want more than that.

-One cannot expect a plausible, peaceful solution in the foreseeable future unless the PLO leadership changes its mind, heart, and writings.

What Israel Has Offered

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 Olmert proposed that Israel withdraw from 98 percent of the total territory in Samaria, Judea, 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 Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert also agreed that Israel recognize in principal the so-called "right of return." Mr. Olmert denies this. However, he did propose that thousands of Arab refugees would be allowed to come into the State of 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 Prime Minister Olmert - addressing borders, refugees and Jerusalem - was declined by the PLO.

Why the PLO Said No

Mahmoud 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, they 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? Concentrating on Jerusalem, the answer is that the PLO does not accept a situation of shared sovereignty in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount and its surroundings. Their goal is to have Arab-Palestinian-Muslim sovereignty at that site.

This is not just a whim of the current Palestinian leadership. In 2000, Prime Minister 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 still this was rejected. The PLO assertion was that the whole Temple Mount should be under Arab-Muslim sovereignty.

(Read full paper)

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  1. The point is a Jewish State exercising ANY degree of sovereignty is anathema to the PA leadership. Which incidentally is why it keeps coming up with creative excuses not to talk to Israel.

    Constructive clarity, indeed.

  2. Norman, Shavua Tov

    Your point was both constructive, and clear. (-: