The mood among the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah prior to the anticipated United Nations vote in September is reminiscent of a small child who has received an adult bicycle for his birthday. The child doesn't know whether to rejoice or to cry. He's so happy with the wonderful gift, but his heart is full of fear that he'll fall flat, injure his knee and scratch the shiny bicycle.
When the UN gives them a state of their own as a gift, what will the Palestinians do with the bicycle that they cannot ride anywhere with confidence? Why do they even need it? What will negotiator Saeb Erekat say to the thousands of unemployed young Palestinians, who have long since lost faith in the so-called "peace process?" Will he once again ask them to be patient, and will he promise them that very soon U.S. President Barack Obama will twist the arm of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
A new report by UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, illustrates that in spite of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's impressive efforts to build a flourishing economy, development and occupation don't go together. The report points to a dramatic decline in the number of jobs in construction (35 percent ) and industry (30 percent ) in the second half of 2010 compared to the first half of the same year. As for the unemployment rate, this increased during that same period by 3.3 percent and reached 25 percent. How will Fayyad's officers behave when tens of thousands of young people march toward the checkpoints and the settlements?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fayyad know that the day after the vote in the UN, the Israel Defense Forces will not begin to withdraw its forces and the settlers will not contact the movers. They understand that when September comes, they would have wasted thousands of liters of jet fuel in order to be hit by an American veto in the UN Security Council and to receive meaningless recognition by the world capitals of a state empty of content.
On the other hand, after over 100 countries recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, how can they justify the continued existence of the institution of the Palestinian Authority, by way of an agreement that grants them full control (with the exception of "occasional visits" by mistarvim - Israeli soldiers disguised as Arabs ) only over Area A, partial-civil control (with the exception of regular invasions by settlers ) of Area B, and no right of entry into Area C at all (about 60 percent of the West Bank )?
How can a Palestinian state serve as a subcontractor of the IDF and the Shin Bet security services? Will it continue to receive handouts from the donor countries, which will agree to continue to pay for the Israeli occupation masked as "assistance to the peace process?"
On the other hand, if they dismantle the PA, what will happen to its 150,000 employees, their families and the merchants whose livelihood depends on them? Who is willing to risk having the West Bank turn into Gaza?
Life was much nicer and simpler when it was possible to feed the newspapers with another round of policy talks in Washington, to fill the diplomatic vacuum with a report about a visit by the American envoy to the region, or to be photographed at an international conference.
Yes, while Abbas is stuck with his UN initiative and Netanyahu is entrenched in his do-nothing policy, from his office in Abu Dis veteran Palestinian statesman Abu Ala (Ahmed Qureia ) is sending a new-old plan for extricating the bicycle from the mud. The main points of the plan - convening a peace conference like the Madrid Conference, based on the 2002 Arab peace initiative and Obama's plan regarding the 1967 borders and agreed-on border swaps.
Also to be invited, along with the parties directly involved in the conflict, will be the Quartet countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey and Iran (if it accepts the invitation ).
There will be a permanent subcommittee empowered by the international conference that will meet every two months, or as necessary, in order to accompany the progress of the bilateral talks between the Israeli side and the Palestinian, Syrian and Jordanian side. At the same time there will be a renewal of the activity of the multilateral committees on refugees (headed by Canada ), arms control (the United States and Russia ), water (the United States ), economic cooperation (the European Union ) and environmental quality (Japan ). The conference plenum will convene once again for a formal ceremony to sign the agreements on all three tracks.
Abu Ala says that American, Arab and European elements, along with Israeli officials, are showing a great deal of interest in the plan. When he was involved day and night in talks that led to the Oslo Accords, they also said he was wasting his time. On the other hand, do you recall what Benjamin Netanyahu said about Oslo and what he did to that unfortunate agreement?
Berlusconi as a model
Meanwhile, as a service to the Israeli prime minister and his ministers who made the effort to meet with Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his cabinet members, and did not receive the latest edition of The Economist from the flight attendants on the special flight, here is an abstract of the main article in the important weekly:
Under the heading, "The man who screwed an entire country" - yes, "screwed" - the newspaper reports that the friend of Israel and of underage girls is a model not only for ethical issues, but for economic success as well; under Berlusconi's leadership the rate of increase in Italy's gross domestic product in the past decade is higher only than that of Zimbabwe and Haiti.
Every fourth Italian is unemployed. In the distressed south, the employment situation is even worse.
The rate of participation in the work force of Italian women, of whom he is so fond, plummeted to 46 percent - the lowest percentage in Western Europe.
While in the United States, productivity increased by one-fifth and in Britain by one-tenth, in Italy it declined by 5 percent. The Berlusconi government brought Italy down to eighth place in the world in the World Bank "Doing Business" index, below Belarus and Mongolia.
The Economist describes Berlusconi as "a disaster, damage, a failure." Tell me who your friends are.
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