Back to Oslo's obstacles
Peace, unlike war, is not conducted through subterfuge. It is in the vagueness and ambiguity - there, precisely there - that the congenital defects of Oslo are to be found.
A Palestinian state in provisional borders is a problematic condition that crept into the road map through the legacy of Oslo. And it's a good enough reason for the absolute rejection of the idea by the Palestinians.
In the days of the first Sharon government, Shimon Peres did indeed try his luck advancing the idea of a a "provisional state." But his interlocutor, Ahmed Qureia, posed a condition: He would agree to a "provisional" state" as long as the final borders of the "permanent" state would be determined not by the vague wording of UN Security Council Resolution 242 but on the solid base of the 1967 borders.
The story of the Peres-Qureia "agreement" is relevant nowadays - relevant to the attitude of the Palestinian Authority toward Oslo's legacy of stages, and relevant regarding the position of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas toward the next stage in the road map, the day after the disengagement from Gaza. Abbas, like Qureia in his day, rejects out of hand the idea of a state with provisional borders.
There is nothing that the Palestinians despise more than the multi-stage movement toward a vague goal that is Oslo's legacy. Every Israeli attempt to steer them once again into the endless, foggy maze of Oslo will fail. Experienced from Oslo's obstacles, they will regard the provisional borders proposed in the road map to be an ambush meant to turn the deep, multi-dimensional conflict between us into a banal border conflict that might last for years, in which Israel goes back to creating facts on the ground as it indeed did during the interim stages period of Oslo.
What could be more of a confirmation of their concerns than Talia Sasson's report? Zionism is liberating itself painfully, if at all, from the mentality of the pre-state yishuv days. Since 1967, and no less since the Oslo years, we've turned the creation of facts on the ground by deceiving the British mandate authorities and the Arabs of the country into one of the most amazing conspiracies that a democratic country anywhere ever dared to undertake, with outlaws leading the entire country onto a march of folly - and the end is still not in sight.
It is from Oslo's disappointments and the awareness of the built-in obstacles in Israeli political culture that Abbas derives his unequivocal demand of the international community to move directly to the final status agreement after Gaza. If there is Palestinian readiness for a provisional state, it will only be after its permanent borders are defined.
At the heart of the debate over the coming steps in the political process on the day after the disengagement from Gaza, as well as the discussions of the chances of the idea of a "provisional state," is a most critical question of principle: Is the Palestinian national movement a political entity or a revolutionary movement? Did the establishment of the Palestinian Authority sideline the revolutionary dimension of the Palestinian movement in favor of a culture of political responsibility and conflict resolution - including an open conflict over the central ethoses of the Palestinian nation - only through negotiation?
A state, even when it is a dictatorship tainted with terror like Syria, for example, is not easily tempted into breaking all the rules vis a vis its neighbors. Syria had and still has an interest in not breaking the rules. Is there a similar built-in Palestinian interest not to break the rules in case negotiations fail? The answer is no.
The main mirage of the Oslo process was the assumption that the establishment of a political Palestinian Authority would enable having a bilateral civilized dialogue on the permanent agreement, without it being tempted to break the rules. That assumption collapsed into the intifada. The political authority that was born at Oslo did not hesitate to enlist the revolutionary ethos of the Palestinian national movement for an all-out struggle against Israel, once it became apparent that its national goals were not being met.
Those who think that changing the Palestinian leadership changes the price of peace is wrong and deceptive. Abbas is moderate in his strategy, not his goals, which are no different from Arafat's goals. Abbas' PA will also have to return to revolutionary and violent patterns of behavior once it feels that the minimum goals of the Palestinian national movement are being denied.
Peace, unlike war, is not conducted through subterfuge. It is in the vagueness and ambiguity - there, precisely there - that the congenital defects of Oslo are to be found. A discussion of the permanent agreement does not allow any more "constructive ambiguity," as Henry Kissinger used to say, although he, too, has lately freed himself of it by preaching in the Chicago Tribune for a permanent agreement under the patronage of the international community, led by the U.S.
Israel has nothing to gain from going into endless interim procedures. The price of peace is known to all. The foundations were shaped at Camp David and polished into the Clinton Framework. Bush will never call his peace plan after his predecessor, but the letter of agreements he gave Sharon does not point anywhere except to the principles of the Clinton Framework: border changes along the 1967 lines, rejection of the right of return into Israel.
The trauma of the Gaza disengagement will rip open Israeli society without solving a thing if we don't put an end to the discourse of "fences," "disengagement," and "unilateralism." Just as our relationships with Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt have proven, Israel will not get any firmer security than that which is granted by a recognized international border. A fence, if it is insisted upon, can be an appendix, maybe even a vital one, but never the thing itself.