Trial balloons over Jerusalem

Another ‘logical’ plan that will not be implemented:

Israel should turn over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a peace deal with the moderate government of President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s deputy prime minister [Haim Ramon] said Friday. The comment was one of the frankest remarks to date about what Israel might be willing to relinquish in talks…

Ramon, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said keeping all of Jerusalem would endanger the city’s future as Israel’s capital and suggested that many Arab sections be turned over to Palestinian sovereignty in return for international recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods Israel has built in east Jerusalem since 1967…

“There is no partner, and there will be no partner, who will be better than Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Fayyad,” Ramon said, referring to Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who heads the Palestinian government. — AP

Where to start? First, no Palestinian or Arab leader, Abbas included, has ever even come close to agreeing that Israel has any right to stay in any part of East Jerusalem.

Second, no Palestinian or Arab leader, Abbas included, has ever come close to accepting Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Third, even if Abbas and Fayad were to agree to this, they don’t represent anybody other than themselves. If there is an agreement, Israeli concessions will be concrete and difficult to reverse, turning territory over to the Palestinians. Palestinian concessions will be on paper, ambiguous, and may evaporate with changes in leadership (not to mention the worst case, a Hamas takeover of the West Bank).

Ramon, it seems, is playing the Olmert to Olmert’s Sharon. As you may recall, the trial balloon for the disastrous Gaza disengagement was floated by Olmert, then Sharon’s Deputy Prime Minister.

There has been a great deal of speculation about agreements that may have already been made between Olmert and the Abbas/Fayad government in advance of the US-sponsored peace conference to be held in November. So far it has all been about what Israel is going to give up.

I’m pleased that Ramon is pleased about what a great partner the Fatah team is. But I think that we should keep in mind that the better a ‘partner’ it seems to us, the less influence it has among the Palestinians and in the rest of the Arab world.

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