lieberman - Emil Salman - December 14 2010
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Photo by Emil Salman
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To call the latest accumulation of words from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman a "political plan" is like calling the parliamentary committee of inquiry into the funding sources of left-wing groups an effort to bring greater transparency to Israeli NGOs. It is a creation that never was and never will be.

It is a predetermined ritual: The government refuses to freeze settlement construction, the Palestinians freeze the negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for foiling the peace process, the international community presses Israel, Netanyahu/Lieberman/Barak publish or leak "a new political program," the Palestinians reject it.

Then Israel says, "Did we not tell you there is no partner for peace?" It's all so obvious, and so sad.

The only good news to emerge from this story is that the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu is familiar with the Oslo Accords, which is infamous among his ilk. Lieberman is hinting that, under certain conditions, he may even be willing to consider partial recognition of the road map.

The point of departure in analyzing the "plan" is that Lieberman is neither stupid nor lazy. The foreign minister knows the history of negotiations with the Palestinians well, and knows that the PA president has turned down the idea of a Palestinian state with interim borders countless times. The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Saeb Erekat, also told George W. Bush's administration that the Palestine Liberation Organization had given up on the implementation of that idea, which was mentioned as an option during the second stage of the road map.

First of all, in the 17 years that have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have learned that with the Israelis there is nothing more permanent than the temporary. Second, they fear that after Israel recognizes their Bantustan-like state, the international community will treat the conflict as yet another border dispute, of which there are many around the world; or, more likely, they will not deal with it at all.

Lieberman's "plan" recalls something President Shimon Peres liked to say - that it's possible to make an omelet out of an egg, but not turn an omelet into an egg. The map Israel's foreign minister is "proposing" to the Palestinians as a long-term, interim arrangement (40 to 50 percent of the West Bank, with a land exchange ), wipes out in one fell swoop the map that Defense Minister and former premiere Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton offered them (94 to 96 percent ) over 10 years ago. It also ignores the map former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented to Abbas (93.5 percent, plus a passage connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip ).

On Sunday, the New York Times published a map of a land-swap proposal prepared by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which indicates territory inside the Green Line that Israel would give to the Palestinians in return for the settlement blocs. Makovsky's D.C. office is located near that of Dennis Ross, who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama administration in the peace process.

The Palestinians do not reject the principle of a gradual Israeli withdrawal from the territories, but under two conditions: that Israel will sign an agreement that the June 4, 1967 borders will serve as the basis for the permanent border; and that the United States will guarantee a withdrawal to the final border within a reasonable and agreed-upon timetable.