The Jerusalem Post reports:
The Construction and Housing Ministry on Friday advertised two tenders for leasing plots of land in the West Bank settlements of Elkana and Ariel in order to build 100 new housing units…
The Peace Now organization issued a response saying that “the government is destroying the chance to arrive at an agreement with the Palestinians and is turning Annapolis [the 2007 Annapolis peace initiative] into an irrelevant joke.”
The Palestinian position is that Israel must go back to 1967 borders. They also insist on a right of return, and other things which are impossible. There cannot be a peace agreement on their terms that will leave Israel standing.
Israel’s position is that there is nothing permanent about the 1967 borders — which are after all cease-fire lines from 1949 — and that a final agreement could include Israel keeping the larger settlement blocs while compensating the Palestinian state with land elsewhere. Israel believes that any final agreement would keep Ariel and Elkana, as well as some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, etc.
Some have even suggested a ‘swap’ where Israel transfers areas with large Arab populations to ‘Palestine’ and keeps some settlements. Naturally, the Israeli Arabs living in these areas hate the idea. It’s quite OK for them to be Palestinian nationalists while they get the benefits of living in Israel, but they aren’t prepared to give these up. And of course the more Arabs that live in Israel, the greater the pressure to turn it into a binational state.
These ideas could be pursued if the goal of both sides were a Jewish and a Palestinian state living side by side, but it isn’t.
The Palestinians believe that the territories and indeed the state of Israel are all lands that were stolen from them. In their view, Israel is responsible for everything. The Abbas government has agreed to settle for 1967 borders as a temporary step, but only on conditions which will result in a Jewish state of Israel being untenable. A real compromise which could lead to two peaceful states is not desirable to them; what they want is progress toward getting ‘their’ land back.
The position of the US is ambivalent. Although President Bush said, in a letter to PM Ariel Sharon in 2004, that
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,
nevertheless, the State Department continues to insist that any construction within the boundaries of existing ‘settlements’ (including East Jerusalem) “violates the Road Map”. And although the same letter contained the following remark,
It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel,
there has been no US insistence that the Palestinian demand for a right of return be taken off the table.
Peace Now, after all of these years and all of the lies and murder from Arafat and his heirs, still refuses to believe that the PLO doesn’t have the same goals that they do.
The Annapolis meeting was an irrelevant joke from the start, or worse — because rather than force the Palestinians to be realistic, all it did was institutionalize the impossible US project to fight Hamas with Fatah.