Palestinian Critics Shouldn't Be So Hasty to Dismiss Abbas

The Palestinian criticism of Abbas stems from the fact that he agreed to grant Israel much more than what was considered the accepted Palestinian interpretation of UN resolutions.

Even before the calming of the tempest in the frozen diplomatic soup that Al Jazeera tried to bring to a boil in order to taunt Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, it is already possible to assess what was "revealed" last week, and we actually knew already.

Mainly, it is possible to point to an "area of agreement" that both sides will have to adopt to the extent that they want an accord.

First, we learned that that when there is a frame of reference, you can seriously negotiate all the details. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not interested in bridging the gaps with the details, has for two years avoided agreeing on the principles for negotiations, even though they were accepted in the past by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

Second, the publication of the Palestinian proposals proves there is no base to the slogans spread by Netanyahu that the Palestinians' position on the two core issues threatens the Zionist vision. Abu Mazen acknowledged that it is not reasonable to flood Israel with Palestinian refugees that would threaten the existence of a Jewish majority. So the issue is an argument over a symbolic return of refugees, which is demographically negligible in light of the transfer of 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty.

The Palestinian positions, as they were revealed, also render the claims of a security threat meaningless. The Palestinians agreed to the demilitarization of their state, with no army and heavy armaments, and to the presence of international forces in their territory. What's more, Abu Mazen said lately that he would agree to a limited Israeli presence for a few years in the Jordan Valley.

Third, it was "revealed" that the border proposed by Israel did not give it spatial control in any of the regions that Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman (anachronistically ) declare as "vital interests" (the Jordan Valley, the Judean Desert, the western security area, main routes and water ). From the days of Camp David and up to Annapolis, the border line proposed by Israel was based on solely one element: the number of Israelis who will have to be evacuated. That is a real Israeli demand that the Palestinians are indeed treating with diplomatic insensitivity. The Palestinian proposal refuses to accept the annexation to Israel of Ma'aleh Adumim and the Givat Ze'ev bloc, and lacks topographic and geographic logic. Based on past experience it can be assumed that these settlements will remain under Israeli sovereignty when a final agreement is signed.

Fourth, the real point of dispute was and remains the "historic basin" in Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount at its heart. The territorial dimension is dwarfed in comparison with the national, and especially the religious, dimension. Therefore, Olmert's proposal to internationalize the area makes it possible to overcome the obstacle of sovereignty far more successfully that the Palestinian partition proposal, which is based on the Clinton parameters. Bridging this point of dispute requires creative formulation, because in any proposed solution, the actual administration of the holy places will stay as it has been for many years.

The Palestinian criticism of Abu Mazen stems from the fact that he agreed to grant Israel much more than what was considered the accepted Palestinian interpretation of UN resolutions and other decisions by the international community. This gap is very troubling to the Palestinian in the street, who in daily life is not tasting the "fruits of peace" that were supposed to compensate him for real and imagined concessions.

The critics either deliberately ignore or do not see the return for which Abu Mazen is willing to declare an end to conflict and the end of claims - an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, which puts an end to the refugee issue and to the lack of citizenship of half the Palestinian people.