Since Rice’s visit earlier this week, there are suggestions that the pace of our negotiations with the PA have accelerated and that something secret is being cooked. Rice apparently proposed “new ideas” before she left, that included some notion of giving the Palestinians part of Jerusalem but allowing us to remain for up to five years — which simply delays and does not solve the problems inherent in any division of our city.
That our government is not to be trusted in this regard — that Olmert would like to go out in what he imagines to somehow be a blaze of glory because of what he will have managed to “achieve” in spite of his legal difficulties — I do not question for a moment.
The issue is what is realistically possible. My take remains that the sides are in great likelihood simply too far apart to achieve a comprehensive agreement. Abbas has rejected out of hand a partial agreement that, for example, tables the issue of Jerusalem for later. And Barry Rubin has pointed out that Abbas “is not moderate on the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, which is very close to his heart.” This is an issue, says, Rubin, on which neither side is ready to comprise.
There are some concessions that Olmert or Livni might make in secret that would not even play with the government — would not garner the approval of the Cabinet, never mind the Knesset. The question is at what point Olmert might sign something and what the legality of it would be if there were no Cabinet approval.
Right now it seems that this is a time for extreme vigilance and appropriate action, such as is deemed most effective, without hysteria.
Olmert is scheduled to meet with Abbas again on Sunday.
I would like to share one statement by Livni from the press conference she held with Rice, which demonstrates clearly Livni’s deviousness:
“…we need to also remind ourselves where we stood only a year ago, when we faced terror attacks, when the situation in Gaza Strip led to a kind of an understanding that there was no hope for peace.
“We launched Annapolis process. We are now — there is a dialogue between Israel and diplomatic leaders on the Palestinian side. There is hope for peace…And I think that sometimes there is a need to remind ourselves that we changed the situation, the atmosphere, the situation on the ground.”
How far afield she has gone with this, mixing apples and oranges with essential dishonesty. The cessation of terror attacks from Gaza has nothing whatsoever to do with our negotiations with the PA. While she might like to give this impression, most clearly Annapolis didn’t bring relative quiet to the people of Sderot and environs.
What changed “the situation on the ground”? A very questionable and very tenuous ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. Does this increase hope for peace? Quite the contrary. Hamas is stockpiling weapons toward the day when they intend to hit us. Hard. No “hope” here, but rather our failure to respond effectively and a weakening of our deterrence.
So, here we see why Olmert and Livni support this foolish ceasefire: It provides a semblance of quiet that they expect will give them a political advantage: See what we have achieved!
I would suggest that Livni — who is now the solid frontrunner over Mofaz for position of Kadima leader in polls — would like to give the impression of doing something that increases our possibility of peace, but would not want to actually reach the stage of having signed something. For this would mean that her concessions — which would be unpalatable to many — would be made public. If you remember, when there was a proposal for an interim document that would show what each side had agreed to so far, she was pushed for not putting anything in writing too quickly, for this very reason.
Similarly, it suits Abbas to give the appearance of working productively towards “peace.” This not only keeps Rice happy, it garners him additional financial support from the Europeans. But signing off on an agreement that includes concessions by the PA is something else all together. Not only is Hamas on the edge of taking him over, large parts of his own Fatah party would not be on board.
More after Shabbat.