Beilin-Abu Mazen, and No Further

Everything, promised Beilin, was soluble - indeed had already been solved.

From the democratic standpoint, it was highly unethical. Behind the backs of an elected prime minister (Yitzhak Rabin) and foreign minister (Shimon Peres), a deputy cabinet minister over a period of two years held fateful talks with the national enemy.

The deputy minister acted without permission, without authorization, and contrary to the stated positions of his superiors, so as to establish irreversible political faits accompli in close cooperation with Yasser Arafat.

In doing so, this deputy minister carried out what can be accurately defined as a "diplomatic putsch" unprecedented in Israel's political history. He forced his own world-view upon a government that had never adopted, it and on a public that had never voted on it.

Nonetheless, from the diplomatic standpoint, Yossi Beilin's tactic was fascinating. In creating the Beilin-Abu Mazen paper of November 1, 1995 - six years ago yesterday, and three days before his prime minister was murdered - this deputy minister managed to secure a sort of rough draft of a sort of peace treaty between Israel and a future Palestine.

(Mahmoud Abbas, more widely known as Abu Mazen, is secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is also commonly referred to as the deputy of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.)

Between them, Beilin and Abu Mazen managed to produce what seemed to be the first solid evidence that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is soluble. Though born in sin, the Beilin-Abu Mazen paper provided the Jewish Israeli public with the most important news it had received in a very long time - that the Palestinian national liberation movement was really prepared to recognize the State of Israel within adjusted borders of June 4, 1967, and that it was accepting a rational answer to the partition of what was once British Mandatory Palestine into two viable nation-states.

It was not surprising that for four consecutive years - early 1996 until the spring of 2000 - the Beilin-Abu Mazen paper occupied center stage in the discourse of Israel's "peace elite." Nor was it surprising that during this four-year period, dozens of articles appeared on this op-ed page that analysed and discussed this agreement-non-agreement, while simultaneously bashing the Israeli right and promising that peace was now in reach.

Beilin, unauthorized, but in the name of the Israeli Jewish public, had drawn up Sacred Documents solemnly declaring that no serious problem stood in the way of a peace treaty with the Palestinians - not Jerusalem, nor Jewish settlements in the territories, nor the Palestinian demand for a right of return for their refugees.

Everything, Beilin promised, was soluble - indeed had already been solved. All that was required was to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu, train Ehud Barak properly, and march forward to meet our Palestinian peace partners, clutching in our hands a signed Beilin-Abu Mazen document.

At Camp David in the summer of last year, this is precisely what happened. Israel proposed the Beilin-Abu Mazen formula to the Palestinians - more or less. It was a little less on the settlements, a little more on Jerusalem. Afterward, in the months following Camp David, Israel went much further and proposed n enhanced version of the Beilin-Abu Mazen formula to the Palestinians.

At Taba, Israel got down on its hands and knees and offered the Palestinians a super-enhanced version of Beilin-Abu Mazen, but even the super-enhanced version could not bring home the Palestinians, who instead demanded that Israel humiliate itself totally.

When the moment of truth arrived and a real offer with real conditions was made, the Palestinians arrogantly trampled on the Beilin-Abu Mazen document, expressed scorn for the Beilin-Abu Mazen document, and tore the Beilin-Abu Mazen document to shreds.

Following these developments, one would naturally expect Yossi Beilin, who concocted the Beilin-Abu Mazen formula, and who preached the Beilin-Abu Mazen creed, to step forward and give a thorough rendering of his actions. One would naturally expect this senior Israeli politician to step forward and say: "This far and no further."

However, he has not done so. Instead, Beilin has chosen to mount an offensive against Barak and former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, to blacken their names and blur the fact that they proposed to the Palestinians what he himself had said for years did not need to be proposed.

Instead of being loyal to what he himself has promised the public since 1996, Beilin has chosen to again erode the Israeli position from within - but this time he surpasses himself.

The Israeli positions he is trying to topple today are the self-same ones he himself created - those in the Beilin-Abu Mazen paper.

The United States would never tolerate any senior politician adopting Beilin's pattern of behavior. The U.S. would regard such a politician as a direct threat to American democracy. No member of the 15 European Union democracies would tolerate it. They would see it as some pathological breed of political culture.

Both the Americans and Europeans are fond of praising and funding politicians of the Beilin variety in Third World countries - but never on their home turf, thank you very much.

This is truly regrettable. Yossi Beilin is the most gifted, diligent member of his political generation. The time has surely come for him to do some very serious soul-searching. The time has surely come for him finally to take responsibility for his actions.