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Basic Truths of the Peace Process

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that one reason he does not post more on the peace process is that “there isn’t actually much of a peace process on which to post.” He suggests the problem is that Netanyahu won’t tell his coalition the “basic truth” that a peace deal requires a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and won’t yet make a specific proposal for the borders of a Palestinian state.

In a prior post entitled “Why I’m Not Blogging About the Peace Process,” Goldberg had a more even-handed theory: Netanyahu cannot offer the Clinton Parameters, and Abbas cannot accept anything less. But that theory does not survive the account of the Annapolis process in George W. Bush’s memoirs, and Goldberg’s current theory is several basic truths short of a plan.

At the end of the year-long Annapolis negotiation, Abbas received an offer that was the equivalent of the Clinton Parameters: a state on all of Gaza and the West Bank (after land swaps) with a capital in Jerusalem. In his book, Bush writes that he “devised a process to turn the private offer into a public agreement”: Olmert would travel to Washington and deposit the proposal with him; Abbas would “announce that the plan was in line with Palestinian interests”; and Bush would call the leaders together to finalize the deal.

But Abbas declined the offer because he “didn’t want to make an agreement with a prime minister on his way out of office.” Condoleezza Rice has said she told Abbas he should accept the deal because it would be binding on a future Israeli prime minister even if Olmert could not complete it himself, but Abbas still declined. The Palestinians have thus rejected the Clinton Parameters twice – in 2001 and 2008 – and there is no evidence to support the theory that the current problem is a failure to offer them a third time — just as there is no evidence that a new construction moratorium, following a 10-month one that produced nothing, would produce anything.

The fundamental problem of the “peace process” is the inability of the Palestinian peace partner, currently in the 71st month of his 48-month term, controlling only half his putative state, to tell his public certain basic truths: there will be no Palestinian state unless there is a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish one; Israel will not be returning to the “Auschwitz lines” of 1967 but rather to defensible borders with an effective means to secure them; and there is not going to be a “right of return” to Israel in either principle or practice. We are still waiting for Abbas’s Bir Zeit speech.



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