Briefly before Shabbat and without knowledge of when I will next be on line…
Don’t know where the issue of demanding that we be recognized as a Jewish state is going. I’m looking for — expecting — the hedge that allows the PA to say they didn’t provide this recognition, but that allows Olmert to say he got what he demanded. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has now said that Olmert wanted to "poke us in the eye." But…he has also now said, "The majority of Israelis are Jews. And when we recognized Israel we recognized the composition of the state." This is NOT the same thing as what Olmert is supposed to be demanding, which would be a right that sounds the death knell for "return" of refugees. It’s on the way to a hedge, and it remains to be seen how this plays out.
The defense establishment is advising that no more concessions should be made to Abbas until the results of Annapolis are examined. Enough good will gestures, they say. Said one defense official — unnamed, but clearly someone with his head screwed on right — "The Palestinians will forget quickly what we gave them before the summit and it is important to create incentives for Abbas to make the summit work."
But the Cabinet (either not knowing or not caring how this constant rush to concessions weakens our stance) will be voting on Monday regarding the release of more prisoners, which Abbas has requested.
According to a "senior official" in the government — also unnamed — "If the summit is successful and negotiations ensue, then it might be necessary to keep the Palestinians happy and quiet. One way to do that is to release more prisoners." I was so incredulous at the stupidity of this I had to read it twice. The plan being hatched, which apparently hasn’t reached Olmert’s desk yet, is to keep the street quiet by releasing a significant number of prisoners every month so that negotiations can proceed.
Don’t they see that if we have to BUY the cooperation of the Palestinian people, if they are not happy BECAUSE we are negotiating peace, then there is no peace? Here, in a nutshell, is the whole concessions mentality, which totally fails to recognize that the other side has to genuinely want peace.
The Shin Bet is making a prediction that Abbas might be looking for an excuse to shuttle Annapolis. Not getting enough concessions might be a hook for this: we couldn’t continue, for Israel wasn’t sincere. But this is absolutely not a reason to make those concessions, for reasons just stated. If he wants out, it wouldn’t work anyway.
And sure he wants out, because he’s not politically strong enough to compromise at all, and because he would never sign an end of conflict agreement, since the goal is to destroy us.
Political commentator Ehud Ya’ari also thinks Abbas wants out. Says he, "The Palestinians are fuming at Rice for having trapped them in a corner." But he talks about something else that is mightily worrisome: the Palestinians are trying to "get out of it by renewing the talk about a ‘third step’ in the Oslo process that was never implemented. What this means is an attempt to get more territory on the West Bank from Israel without having to reach any substantive agreement." This must be monitored very closely.
Ya’ari says a great deal more: "If it were not for Israel’s regular preemptive counterterror raids, Hamas could, if it so wished and even without the use of armed force, paralyze the functioning of the Palestinian Authority. There’s no chance that things will change in the foreseeable future. The Fatah movement has in fact ceased to exist, although there are still tens of thousands of card-carrying members. There is no meaningful process of resuscitation or reform under way in either the PA, or its ruling party, Fatah. In private conversations, associates of the PA chairman, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), call him ‘a pensioner still going to the office.’"
And this is who we are thinking of negotiating with.