An editorial on Wednesday’s Ha’aretz English site discusses the so-called ‘Peres plan’, which I mentioned yesterday (and which the Prime Minister’s and President’s office have denied). Ha’aretz believes that we are now on the verge of “genuine diplomatic processes and practical plans for solving the conflict”, as opposed to previous “empty words” and “barren meetings”.
What is the great breakthrough that PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas have achieved at their recent meeting? Nothing less than this:
Olmert, basing himself on a proposal by President Shimon Peres, welcomed the key principle of the Arab peace initiative, which guarantees that negotiations over the borders of the Palestinian state will be based on the June 4, 1967, lines.
It seems to me that all two-state proposals, including Oslo, the Geneva Initiative, etc. have ‘based themselves’ on the 1967 borders, more or less. So this isn’t exactly a breakthrough.
Maybe it’s the part about the Arab [League] Peace Initiative? But that calls for “Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines”, which of course does not leave room for Israel to keep some settlement blocs while compensating the Palestinians with land from within the 1967 lines, as in the Peres plan. Nor does it leave room for the “practical and balanced solutions for the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees’ return to places other than Israel’s sovereign territory” that are called for in the Peres plan.
So either Olmert has agreed to nothing, or he has given away the store.
Ha’aretz’ exposition of the alleged Peres plan is interesting not so much for the content, as for the point of view it exposes:
The Peres document proposes that Israel and the Palestinians draft a document of principles, with an upfront guarantee that Israel will provide the Palestinian state with territory equal to 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A prior agreement on this central issue, along with a binding timetable, would enable negotiations to be held on the details of the agreement. Such a discussion would focus, among other issues, on what compensation the Palestinians would receive for the designated settlement blocs, which must not interfere with the West Bank’s territorial contiguity.
It seems strange to me that somewhere along the way from the Balfour Declaration, through the major wars and minor conflicts, it has become enshrined as an inviolable principle that the territories belong to the Palestinians, and Israel must transfer them or compensate their owners.
It might be possible to convince me that for practical reasons Israel should not hold on to all of the territories, but I certainly do not start from the position that they are Palestinian territories which Israel must give back to their rightful owners! But this is the position expressed above, and what bothers me about it is the slippery slope to the next step, which is the general Palestinian position that all of the area of the mandate belongs to them, from the river to the sea. If we agree that the territories are Palestinian, what is the distinction between them and the rest of Israel?
Ha’aretz continues to display its remarkable perspective as follows:
Moreover, time is not on the side of pragmatic forces in the Middle East. Israel’s failed war in Lebanon, and the failure of American policy in Iraq, have raised the status of Shi’ite fanatics like Hassan Nasrallah, who receive support from Iran. [my emphasis]
Israel’s war? Somehow I’d thought that Hezbollah’s invasion of Israel, the kidnappings, and the rocket attacks would make it Nasrallah’s war.
And here’s the main point Ha’aretz wants to make:
Without a substantive change in the situation in the territories [i.e., Israel abandoning them], Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip is liable to turn out to be the first step in a takeover of the entire territories by Islamic fanatics.
And I ask: How will an abandonment of the West Bank be different from the abandonment of Gaza?
Olmert, Peres, Abbas, and Fayad may sign a document with great fanfare, and maybe more Nobel Prizes will be distributed. Then, when the IDF has evacuated the Jewish residents from the Judenrein province of Palestine and has withdrawn across the green line, what will prevent Hamas from doing exactly what they did in Gaza?
Maybe this time they won’t even have to fight; perhaps the Saudis can negotiate a unity government for them.