Text size

Along the timeline, 15 years minus one week since the signing of the Oslo Accords on the lawn of Bill Clinton's White House, it seems the prime minister is right. We have never been so close to peace with the Palestinians. It's enough to mention that 13 years ago minus one month, during the most sensitive days of the Oslo process, then Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert convinced the Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, Senator Bob Dole, to introduce a bill to move the U.S. embassy to Israel's "undivided" capital.

Today that very same Olmert is proposing that Jerusalem be divided and the Arab neighborhoods be transferred to Palestine. Nevertheless, if there is no basic change in the concepts held by the adults responsible for the negotiations, the Israeli and Palestinian children who learned this week how to read "Shalom, Kita Aleph" will meet each other in 12 years on the battlefield, in a binational state or in an apartheid regime.

Measured on a yardstick, Israel has gone a long way to meet the Palestinians. However, the negotiations on the "shelf agreement" are being held on parallel yardsticks.

The distance between them has been reduced, but as we all know, parallel lines never meet. When those conducting the negotiations cannot agree on a starting point, there is no chance they will find a meeting point.

From Olmert's point of view, and more so from Tzipi Livni's, the conflict began in 1967. The concessions therefore have to refer to the border that divided Israel from the territories until the Six-Day War.

That is why an agreement giving 93 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, along with compensation in the form of a few percentage points of Israel's sovereign territory is a generous offer second to none. A real "Ben-Gurion-like decision."

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) opened negotiations with Olmert at the point Yasser Arafat had been in negotiations with Ehud Barak. Their point of departure was the Nakba - the expulsion of the Palestinians from their lands in 1947 and 1948.

From their point of view, their first "Ben-Gurion-like decision" was taken in December 1988 with the decision by the Palestinian National Council.

At that time, the Palestine Liberation Organization exchanged the armed struggle of liberating 78 percent of the territory of Mandatory Palestine for the political struggle of establishing an independent state on the lands Israel occupied in 1967 (22 percent).

Their second "Ben-Gurion-like decision" was made in March 2002 when Arafat adopted the Arab peace initiative including the paragraph that requires Israel's agreement to any solution on the refugee problem.

Israel invented the term "settlement blocs" and blew it up to monstrous proportions, whether the international community was prepared to agree or not.

Now the Israelis are demanding that the Palestinians concede these areas and agree that the blocs cut up their minuscule state.

From their point of view, every dunam they give up to Israel in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a concession on an already meager share. It is worth recalling that when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister, he argued over the scope of the withdrawal from the territories despite the second Oslo agreement, and he repeatedly said that every percentage point was equivalent to the size of Tel Aviv.

The phenomenon of parallel lines is especially salient when referring to the negotiations on Jerusalem. The argument in Israel over the division of Jerusalem on the basis of ethnic and national lines creates the impression that Olmert (as well as Barak) is prepared to commit suicide.

The obvious conclusion is, supposedly, that it would be fitting for the Palestinians to compensate Israel with a substantive concession; for example, on the issue of sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

From the Palestinians' point of view, the Israelis already had a substantive concession in their pockets before the Camp David II talks began. At that stage, Arafat agreed (in return for a suitable territorial exchange) to leave the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

The demand now to give up sovereignty over the Temple Mount is identical in their eyes to a demand by Israel to put the Western Wall under the control of the Muslim Waqf.

Olmert expects everyone, including the Palestinians, to be moved by the giant leap he has taken from the "two banks to the Jordan" camp to renouncing "most of Judea and Samaria."

He is repeating the sins of haughtiness and lack of empathy for the needs of the neighbor that tripped up Barak and contributed to the disaster of 2000's Black September. Until the Israeli leadership frees itself of the bug of the parallel lines, we will continue to transfer the conflict from generation to generation and convince ourselves that we have no partner.