In an article published Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Mahmoud Abbas put to rest all illusions about the possibility of closing a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority soon. Ehud Olmert was willing to pay a high price in this deal. He was willing to give almost all of the disputed territory, to accept refugees, to divide Jerusalem. “The territorial price of an agreement with the Palestinians will bring us very close to a formula of ‘one to one.’ This should be said honestly and courageously,” he said last week. But apparently this is not enough. Abbas writes:
What is often overlooked is the enormous historic compromise we already made in accepting the two-state solution and the creation of our state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on only 22% of our historic homeland. No responsible leader could agree to a peace that further erodes this tiny territory and strips away even more of its natural resources, historic sites and beautiful landscapes. And no responsible leader will accept a “peace plan” that repackages the occupation and makes it permanent.
Israel says its goal is two states, coexisting in peace. Again, I agree. But those states must be real states — sovereign, independent and viable. I cannot subject my people to an Israeli state and a Palestinian canton.
A guide to the perplexed:
Enormous historic compromise: We already did our share, and we’re done compromising. It’s now Israel’s turn.
further erodes this tiny territory: No 93%, no 96%, not even 99%. Abbas wants 100% of the West Bank.
repackages the occupation: No settlement blocks should remain in Judea and Samaria.
sovereign, independent and viable: We will not accept an agreement that will limit our sovereignty. Thus, the Palestinians will reject Israel’s demands to have a demilitarized Palestinian state and will refuse to give Israel security rights along the border with Jordan. Security arrangements are the least debated part of the Israeli-Palestinian future agreement– most commentators tend to focus on the more sexy problems of territory, refugees and Jerusalem. However, reaching an agreement on security matters will be crucial to any future agreement, and it seems as if Abbas has just raised the bar.
Abbas also writes:
We are impatient for our freedom. Yet partial peace, as proposed again by my current interlocutors, is not the way forward. Partial freedom is a contradiction in terms. Either a Palestinian lives free or continues to live under the yoke of Israeli military occupation.
There are two lessons to be learned from these words.
Abbas believes that if he waits longer he’ll get more from the Israelis–and he is ready to wait. The Palestinians have pocketed the concessions Olmert was willing to make, and the next Israeli Prime Minister will start negotiating from that point.
And as much the two sides are only “impatient” impatient to get the deal they want, not just any deal. Since the differences between the two parties seem impossible to bridge, a more modest goal–not a comprehensive peace–will be the advisable route for the next American president.