Special Report: “Israel, Palestinians Agree To Agree”
Vol: 74 Issue: 28 Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Annapolis Summit concluded with speeches and handshakes and the WBAL-TV’s report was headlined, “Abbas, Olmert Reach Peace Agreement in Annapolis,” while Bloomberg reported, “Israel, Palestinians to Talk Peace As US Takes Role of Judge.”
But what really happened at Annapolis was pretty much what was expected to happen at Annapolis — the Palestinians simply agreed to resume negotiations at the point where they broke down seven years ago when Yasser Arafat launched the “Oslo War” — no harm, no foul.
Every broken promise made by the Palestinians since 1993 was forgiven without comment and Abbas was handed a clean slate. But every concession obtained from Israel under false pretenses since 1993 is now set in stone.
Imagine defaulting on your mortgage, then telling the bankruptcy judge that either the bank forgives both the past due payments and remaining unpaid balance — or you’ll burn down the bank.
Instead of locking you up as a terrorist, the judge orders the bank to cancel the past due payments and begin negotiating away the unpaid balance, in the interests of ‘keeping the peace’.
If anything, that is pretty much what came out of Annapolis. Yesterday, they agreed to agree on discussing further agreements.
Today, President Bush is hosting both leaders to read a joint statement pledging to “usher in a new era of peace” and agreed “to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations”.
The problem is that Olmert’s approval ratings are lower than President Bush’s and Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t control all of the West Bank or any of Gaza.
Forgive another lame analogy, but it is like negotiating with a neighbor about the price of a house down the street– because the guy who lives in it doesn’t want to sell, and the neighbor seems more willing to come down on the asking price.
But that’s ok — you don”t have the money to buy it, anyway! As long as you’re negotiating. . .
Although the negotiations are to resume where they left off in 2000, they are to be based on a modified version of the three-phased Road Map for Peace drawn up by the “Quartet” of international arbitrators, the US, EU, UN and Russia, according to President Bush.
Phase I could be a problem, since Phase I calls for the Palestinian Authority to disarm Hamas.
When you come right down to it, Hamas holds 76 seats in the Palestinian parliament, where Abbas’ Fatah Party holds only 43. The Palestinian Authority is a democracy, and Hamas holds a clear majority as a result of a democratic election.
Under the rules of democracy, Hamas is the legitimate government of the Palestinian people. On the other hand, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, it is the Palestinian Authority whose legitimacy is questionable.
The Palestinian Authority was formally established in 1994 as a five-year transitional body to represent the Palestinian people during which time the final status negotiations were to take place.
From the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 until the death of Yasser Arafat in late 2004, there was only one election for president and the legislature — in 1996.
When Arafat died, the Palestinian Authority had to rewrite itself into legitimacy before it could stand for election.
Under the parliamentary system, the leader of the majority party becomes prime minister and head of state. Yasser Arafat invented the role of ‘president’ for himself, but Israel and the US insisted on recognizing the Palestinian Prime Minister — at the time, Mahmoud Abbas, as head of state.
Until the Hamas parliamentary victory made Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh Prime Minister in 2006, and the US and Israel arbitrarily transferred head of state recognition to the presidency, once again, Mahmoud Abbas.
The real, legitimate, democratically-elected government of the Palestinian people is Hamas. The present-day Palestinian Authority is a puppet government jointly imposed on the Palestinians by the United States and Israel.
That isn’t an anti-American or anti-Israel rant. Those are the bare-bones facts from which all sides are working.
Forgetting for a moment that you are a blood-thirsty terrorist intent on destroying Israel, if you were a Palestinian voter, how you you see it?
You voted your conscience in a clear, open and fair democratic election, your guy won, and the US and Israel — whom you already hate — ignored the results of the election and went with the guy you voted against.
Let’s personalize it a bit and try to get more than a superficial understanding of the situation as it exists from the Palestinian perspective.
Remember the 2004 Election? Suppose the Europeans were somehow able to install John Kerry because, although Bush got more votes, Kerry got a lot of votes — and Europeans liked him better.
Once installed by the EU, John Kerry starts negotiating the return of California, New Mexico and Texas to Mexico — at the EU’s insistence. Step One requires John Kerry to disarm everybody who voted for George Bush.
How would you rate his chances for success?
One of the first principles of warfare is “know your enemy.” And diplomacy is simply warfare by other means, so the same principle applies.
If you and I can personalize it enough to see it the way the majority of Palestinian voters see it, then so can the smart guys at the State Department and the equally smart guys in the Israeli foreign ministry.
I am not taking up for the Palestinian side — we were only forgetting ‘for a moment’ that we were stepping into the shoes of blood-thirsty terrorists intent on destroying Israel simply because it is a Jewish state.
But that momentary glimpse of what it really is that everybody is cheering about brings Annapolis into perspective.
The Annapolis Summit’s stated goal is to bring about the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state — in the next fourteen months.
We’ve a much better chance of solving the energy crisis, curing cancer and eliminating world hunger — in the next fourteen months. And everybody at the summit — from the Jews to the Americans to the Saudis — knew that going in.
So why even bother? We’ll tackle that question in tomorrow’s OL.