Land of paradoxes
The first paradox: The Arabs' traditional position on the territories occupied in 1967 was that there was no need for negotiations, dialogue or diplomatic recognition. Israel is the one that demanded a handshake, joint photos and waving flags in exchange for evacuating territories.
The first paradox: The Arabs' traditional position on the territories occupied in 1967 was that there was no need for negotiations, dialogue or diplomatic recognition. The Arabs demanded that Israel withdraw from Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza, implementing UN Security Council Resolution 242 and thus ending the matter. Israel is the one that demanded a handshake, joint photos and waving flags in exchange for evacuating territories. That's how the "land for peace" formula was born. Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem and got Sinai. Hafez Assad refused to come and was left without the Golan.
Now the roles have reversed. Israel wants to get out of most of the West Bank and thus implement Resolution 242, whose English-language version called for "withdrawal from territories." Ehud Olmert does not want anything from the Arabs in exchange for the mountain ridges: no peace, no love letters and no summits. But now the Arabs are the ones conditioning the withdrawal on negotiations and joint photographs. Just look at how Mahmoud Abbas is pleading for a meeting with Olmert and at the efforts Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah are making to host such a summit. Strange, no?
The second paradox: For decades, the Israeli occupation and the establishment of dozens of West Bank settlements were depicted as obstacles to peace and as very serious threats to the security of the region, if not the entire world. Generations of diplomats, political activists and intellectuals campaigned to end the occupation and dismantle the settlements, justifying Palestinian terror as a war of liberation against the land theft, the checkpoints and the humiliations. A coalition of Arab nations, non-aligned countries and EU members stood like an international wall blocking efforts by Israel to justify its control and settlement of the territories on historic and legal grounds.
The pressure worked, and Israel was persuaded. Now it wants to withdraw from 90 percent of the West Bank and evacuate 70,000 settlers after proving its seriousness with the disengagement from Gaza. So what do the Palestinians and their supporters around the world do? They say no to Olmert. No. Don't move. Stay in Itamar and Elon Moreh and Psgaot until we allow you to leave. Mohammed Dahlan is even threatening war if the convergence takes place. What's going on here? Is it possible that just as Israel understood that the territories and settlements are a burden and not an asset, the Palestinians don't want them?
The third paradox: The Israeli left has always preached about dropping the occupation mindset and treating the Palestinians as human beings worthy of respect, not as inferior subjects. But that was when the Palestinians made Fatah leaders their leaders. When the voters in the territories chose Hamas in a fair and democratic electoral process, the attitude was reversed. Now the left is insisting on intervening in Palestinian domestic affairs and on doing everything possible to enable Abbas to recapture control of the Palestinian Authority. How could it be that the Palestinians chose someone they wanted and not someone the left wanted? The left supports dismantling settlements only if this strengthens Abbas as a "partner for a permanent agreement." If Abbas remains weak, it is best to perpetuate Hermesh and Har Bracha, at least until Fatah is back in power.
And the reality: In reality, priorities must be set. If Israel wants to draw a new border and bring the settlers back into its territory, it has to do so by itself. Conditioning the convergence on Palestinian agreement while the PA is being torn apart internally will only foil the withdrawal.
And the illusion that it is possible to trade Yitzhar and Itamar in exchange for returning Fatah to power is stupid and dangerous. The focus must be on the main issue, and on understanding that there is no paradox here: Under the existing circumstances, the Arab position will be the opposite of Israel's, no matter what.