What Is Netanyahu Hiding About the Peace Process?

The prime minister has not disclosed to the public the extent of an agreement with the Palestinians that has already been formulated.

Shaul Arieli
Shaul Arieli
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Shaul Arieli
Shaul Arieli

Like an electric tea kettle, Israeli policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the past decades boiled and cooled during the plethora of genuine and fictitious attempts to achieve an agreement, all lacking the willingness to pay the price established by the United Nations, the United States, the Arab League and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Like an electric tea kettle, unrealistic expectations left something behind in the Israeli psyche, a solid residue of "we tried it all." Benjamin Netanyahu is using it to hide from the public the extent of agreement that has, nonetheless, accumulated at the bottom of the kettle, which was presented by the Palestinian Authority president at the Muqata recently to representatives of most Israeli political parties invited there by the Geneva Initiative.

At the basis of the interim agreements in the Oslo Process stood the assumption that through "the fruits of peace" and gradual concessions, a reality that supports the achievement of a permanent settlement will be created. The fragility of the agreements in view of the violence of the opponents of the agreement on both sides led Ehud Barak to recognize that "it is not possible to cross the chasm in two hops." Therefore, he dragged Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton to Camp David. But the failure of Barak and Clinton to offer the minimum necessary to Arafat and Arafat's attempt to "ride the tiger" of the second intifada shelved the process and sanctified unilateralism.

The illusion that in return for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip the Americans would legitimize the 20 percent of the West Bank that Ariel Sharon sought to annex through the separation fence evaporated with the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and international pressure, which left Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim outside the constructed fence. Ehud Olmert returned to the path of dialogue and progressed with it further at Annapolis.

But Olmert failed, before he stepped down, to reach the level needed by Abbas to market it as a reasonable interpretation of the international and Arab decisions, in line with which he is operating. At least Olmert enabled Abbas and Salam Fayyad to carry out security and economic reforms which completed the Palestinian obligations for the first stage of the road map and once more brought Netanyahu face-to-face with the issue of a permanent settlement.

In view of Netanyahu's forced recognition of the principle of two states for two peoples, he is proposing to establish the Palestinian state on a portion of the West Bank to remove the burden of Israeli occupation, but without dealing with any of the other issues. However, in this, and similar to the disengagement, Netanyahu is serving the interests of Hamas, seeking to "liberate" more land from "Palestine," for no return.

Therefore, the prime minister should be reminded that we are interested in bringing the conflict to an end - not only the occupation. Israel and the Palestinians did not begin talks because one side "discovered" the rights of the other, but because they recognized that they had no choice. Israel feared losing its Jewish identity and its democracy, and the Palestinians feared losing territory to the settlement enterprise.

Over the past decade, we have learned that unilateral or interim steps do not move us forward but strengthen those who oppose an agreement, on both sides, and their illusion that the time "they have gained" will allow them to defeat the other side. Netanyahu is faced only with two options: a permanent agreement or, in its absence, a unilateral withdrawal to the planned fence line. So, the public must demand that Netanyahu expose the breadth of possible agreement at the bottom of the kettle during the past decade, and pose it to Abbas, in order to decide the question of whether there is a partner for resolving the conflict.



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