Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz's peace plan is a refreshing change, particularly in light of his past, although no peace agreement will emerge from it. For 21 years and a day, since the Palestine Liberation Organization declared independence in Algiers, its leaders have not lowered their price: recognition of Israel and an end to hostilities in exchange for a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem the capital. The only "discount" that Israel has received since then was Yasser Arafat's concession of 2 percent of the West Bank in exchange for other territory and safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That was the only deal that won Arab consensus.
Jordan's King Hussein, considered an especially moderate leader, said that after the Six-Day War he rejected Israeli offers to get back 98 percent of the territories, but not Jerusalem. In Avi Shlaim's book "Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace," the king is quoted as saying that for him it was a matter of getting back every centimeter or nothing. It would be hard to find an expert in Israel's intelligence community who would suggest that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was going to offer Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one millimeter more.
And yet, perhaps precisely because of this, Netanyahu wants to meet with the Palestinian leader and is worried that Abbas will retire and go home. For 16 years, the soft murmur of the "peace process" that has been leading nowhere has drowned out the roar of the bulldozers that are deepening the occupation. What will the Israeli government do if the day after Abbas resigns the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah decides to disperse and dissolve the Palestinian Authority? What will happen if after this, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad locks the government ministries and stops paying the police's salaries?
Netanyahu knew what he was talking about when he told U.S. President Barack Obama that he needs Abbas and Fayyad. Without them there are no negotiations; without negotiations there are no donor countries; without donor countries there are no salaries; without salaries there is no PA, or as Hamas calls it, "the Dayton government" (named for the American general who oversaw the training and funding of the PA's security forces). No PA, no security forces. Without security, there is either Somalization or Israelization of the West Bank.
What will Israel do if Abbas announces that by a reasonable date, say, December 31, 2010, the option of a state and a half - Israel and alongside it a Palestinian entity - will go the way of the West Bank's "village leagues" of the 1980s? The question therefore is not why Netanyahu needs Abbas and Fayyad, but why they need Netanyahu.
Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, among the most moderate of the Palestinian elite, who long ago gave up on the idea of a two-state solution, proposed that the PA be dissolved more than a year ago. He even urged the European Union to stop funding the PA, claiming that the money was funding the fig leaf of the Israeli occupation.
Nusseibeh suggested that the Europeans condition aid on the establishment of an independent state for the Palestinians or earmark it for their integration into Israeli society. Such a policy would perhaps shake the Israelis and the Palestinians out of their complacency and lack of commitment to a peace agreement, Nusseibeh told Haaretz in August 2008. His position is now being echoed throughout the territories.
Abbas' decision to end his political career brings the end of the PA in Ramallah closer, along with Netanyahu's moment of decision on dividing the land. While Mofaz has not given Netanyahu the magic political formula that will bridge the gap between the Bar-Ilan speech and Abbas' resignation speech, Mofaz took away Netanyahu's political excuse by bypassing Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on the left.
Netanyahu can no longer hide behind the threat that halting construction in the settlements and painful concessions will bring down his government. If Netanyahu is serious about a two-state solution, he has 32 partners at his disposal: the Kadima MKs and the four Labor rebels who will be glad to replace the rejectors of compromise in Likud and its partners to the right.
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