A Different Approach

An interim agreement is a more realistic goal than a comprehensive peace deal.

What do the following people have in common: Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao and Ban Ki-moon? An approach. Despite all the differences and contrasts among these notables, common to all is the commitment to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a comprehensive and immediate agreement. Full peace, final peace, peace now.

The founding father of the approach is Yossi Beilin. Right after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, that prolific and brilliant statesman realized that the agreement he had just produced would lead to a dead end. He therefore quickly opened a direct channel with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and at the end of two years of talks put together the Beilin-Abu Mazen Document. For some five years, that document was the oracle of the Israeli peace community. It was perceived as final proof that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was within reach. But when Ehud Barak went to Camp David in the summer of 2000, it turned out that it was not such an oracle. The Palestinians are not prepared to share the country peacefully.

Beilin was not deterred. He quickly opened negotiations with a group of Palestinian leaders and in 2003 spawned the Geneva Initiative. For five years that was the oracle of the international peace community. It was perceived as a kind of final proof that the failure of Camp David was coincidental and that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was within reach. But when Ehud Olmert went to Annapolis in 2007-2008, it turned out to be nowhere near an oracle. Although the Geneva Initiative people were the ones to renew the diplomatic process, they could not get Abu Mazen to sign the peace agreement he had been promising since 1993. Once again it was proven that the Palestinians do not want to share the country peacefully.

And yet, despite its resounding failures, the approach is still with us. It still guides U.S. policy and dominates international discourse. The approach requires a number of Middle Eastern leaders to act based on a fundamentally flawed plan. At this very moment the approach is convening a useless peace conference in Washington.

We can understand Abbas. He is probably the last refugee to head the Palestinian national movement. For hundreds of years his family and mine lived in the same city: Safed. The possibility that a son of Safed would give up Safed is close to nil. The idea that a Palestinian refugee would give up the Palestinian refugees' right of return is unfounded.

Abu Mazen is a positive individual who opposes terror, but he has no interest in ending the conflict or the ability to do so. As Yitzhak Shamir went to the Madrid Conference, so Abu Mazen is willing to go to any useless conference that does not demand that he pay a real price for the political assets he has amassed.

We cannot understand the others: Obama, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Netanyahu, Olmert, Barak, Livni, Mubarak, Abdullah, Abdullah, Sarkozy, Merkel, Cameron, Berlusconi, Putin, Hu and Ban. Have they learned nothing and forgotten nothing? Do they not know that even Beilin has wised up? Are they really ready to let political correctness blind them?

The only way to prevent the collapse of the process that is opening in Washington today is to quickly replace the failed approach with a realistic political one. Perhaps a Palestinian state with temporary borders, perhaps a partial evacuation of settlements, perhaps some other creative solution. But one thing is clear: Only if Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas forge some sort of interim agreement soon will peace come closer and an avalanche be prevented.