Waiting for the Godot in Blue and White

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The Gaza pullout in 2005. It was a ploy to freeze the peace process, a key adviser to Ariel Sharon said. Credit: Nir Kafri

Senior Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit has found the main culprit for the diplomatic process that has been shuffling in place for years, parallel to the race to build in the settlements (“Waiting for the Palestinian Godot,” April 24). He thus joins the PR chorus conducted by maestro Benjamin Netanyahu, who sings the endless refrain about there being “no Palestinian partner.”

Shavit has determined that only a fool would believe there’s someone to talk to in the Muqata, the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah. Unlike Shavit, whose eyes have been opened by the passage of time and accumulated experience, “many others” (if only that were so) “wait for the Palestinian Godot who will never show up.”

To prove his point, Shavit lists  Mahmoud Abbas’ missed opportunities over the past 20 years. He opens with Abbas (Abu Mazen) turning his back on the outline for a permanent solution that was completed in 1995 and was dubbed the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement. But negotiator Yossi Beilin, in his book “Touching Peace: From the Oslo Accord to a Final Agreement,” states that the Israeli side was responsible for burying that document.

On November 11, 1995, only days after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, Beilin showed the document to Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres. Peres didn’t adopt the plan, Beilin writes. He opted for the interim agreement with the Palestinians and a deal with the Syrians.

That was the end of the Beilin-Abu Mazen initiative.

The next clause in Shavit’s indictment of Abu Mazen is his rejection of the Geneva Initiative, which in 2003 outlined a possible permanent agreement. Shavit surely remembers what attorney Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s close diplomatic adviser, told him in an interview with Haaretz. But for readers who don’t recall, I've pulled the following out of the archives.

“The Geneva Initiative had gained broad support,” Weisglass told Shavit in October 2004, explaining why the Gaza pullout had been hatched. “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. The disengagement … supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

Five years later, Abu Mazen disappointed Shavit yet again. This time he evaded Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s (truthfully) generous offers. But I wonder what Shavit would write about a leader who would rely on “a local Berlusconi ... who fooled almost all of the people almost all of the time. [He] presented black as white and white as black” (Shavit’s description of Olmert in his “Our very own Berlusconi and MacArthur,” April 17).

Back waiting for Godot, the next proof of Abbas’ recalcitrance was that he “refused to dance the tango of peace with the right-wing Israeli leader,” a reference to Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, where for the first time he declared his support for a two-state solution. That was the speech that Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin said would not come up for debate in the cabinet “because it isn’t the government’s position.”

Meanwhile, Begin and his cohorts have been replaced at the cabinet table by right-wingers who talk up the Bar-Ilan speech as they sign bills to annex more territory. Shavit argues that in recent months Abbas once again sought to extract more concessions from Israel without making the smallest concession in return. Indeed, neither Abbas nor any successor will be a partner in dividing the West Bank and Judaizing East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians already made their big concession in 1988 when they yielded 78 percent of Mandatory Palestine and agreed to make do with a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. They are partners to the Arab League’s peace initiative, which suggests compensating Israel by having all Arab League members establish normal relations with Israel and giving it veto power on the refugee problem.

This revolutionary initiative has been waiting 12 years for its Godot – a blue-and-white Godot.

The writer is the diplomatic analyst for website Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse section.