Who wants to play with Abbas?
Neither Sharon nor Peretz have a real political plan or any political plan at all.
Suddenly, they are all partners. Amir Peretz is prepared to set forth on the old diplomatic path and resurrect the Oslo Accord (without Jerusalem and without the right of return) from its ruins. Sharon is running for election in order to carry out part two of the withdrawal plan. Shinui, the "very heart" of the political center, is of course in favor of painless concessions. And Meretz? Yossi Beilin has already said that he is pleased that everyone has recognized the political path of Meretz and is racing to implement it.
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is undoubtedly thrilled by the number of Israeli partners standing in line to his office. What a celebration. Never has he, or any other Palestinian leader, had the option of holding a daisy in his hand and peeling off one petal after another, wondering: Loves me, loves me not. But it would be best for him to wait another month or two. Soon, the new party platforms will be printed, and then Abu Mazen will learn that they all want the same peace - a peace without Palestinians, sprawled out over the road map, lifeless.
Because the nucleus of the Israeli "center" is indeed packed with many particles that circle around rapidly; but they are all fixed on one main issue - poverty. Yasser al-Za'atra, a Jordanian publicist of Palestinian origin, understood this in his assessment of the race. "Peretz will need to yield to Sharon on the diplomatic plan in exchange for Sharon's concession on the economic plan," he wrote this week.
The statements of Sharon and Peretz indicate that al-Za'atra is treading a safe path.
Neither of them has a real political plan or any political plan at all. In fact, what does the promise to renew the Oslo Accord mean? This accord was intended to lead the two sides to a discussion of the issues in dispute - Jerusalem, the settlements, the right of return, the demarcation of borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state. This was the stage where it got stuck more than five years ago. Peretz has already responded to the question of Jerusalem and the right of return by tossing out these two items. We have not heard him say anything about the separation fence. Does he regard it as Israel's new "natural" border? Will it be necessary to immediately evacuate the settlements on the other side of this "border?" Does he adopt Sharon's plan of settlement blocs? And if so, what is the difference between him and Sharon?
A heavy fog hangs over Sharon's political plan. The assumption, and it is just an assumption, is that he will seek to concentrate the settlers in several settlement blocs. But at the same time, he also declares there will be no further withdrawals. And how will it be possible to concentrate the settlement blocs without a withdrawal? And what route will the separation fence ultimately take? And what will happen with the several tens of thousands of settlers living on the eastern side of the fence?
Sharon's devotion to the road map should especially impress those seeking to locate his political plan. Because the road map provides a wonderful excuse for postponing everything: According to Sharon's reading of this map so far, there will be no progress as long as the Palestinians do not wage war against terror. Even U.S. President George Bush is no longer convinced that the road map will be implemented.
The big question is the economic price that Sharon, as the next prime minister, will be ready to pay to have Amir Peretz agree to sit in the same government with him, and thus form one of the broadest coalitions in the history of Israel. This coalition would also be imbued with the spirit of the builders and supporters of the separation fence from among the former members of the Labor Party and the spirit of those who have so far been afraid to touch an illegal outpost or address the hooligans who uproot olive trees.
Abu Mazen's new Israeli partners need not do a thing for the meantime. They have not yet been elected and have not formed a coalition. But they need to clarify whether beyond the monthly minimum wage of $1,000 and the invitation to Abu Mazen for a friendly discussion, they also have a plan to offer him before all the daisy petals are gone.