Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mahmoud Abbas as angel of peace?

Mahmoud Abbas as angel of peace?

Dan Margalit

It has been almost four years since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas read then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's generous offer for the establishment of a Palestinian state, after which Olmert travelled overseas, and there, at his most valued political spot on earth, presented Abbas as an angel of peace. He's a true partner; he wants to reach an agreement with us and we must not stop the flow of money to Ramallah, Olmert said. For forty days and nights Olmert waited for Abbas to return from Ramallah with a positive message. But Abbas returned with a negative answer, and Olmert blamed Israel. Despicable.

It is questionable after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan speech whether Israel's outgoing government is really interested in an agreement of two states for two peoples. The government may only be offering that, with no real intention of implementing it, promising without delivering. I myself have doubts about that, which have been steadily growing in light of an explanation by Likud MKs that Netanyahu offered a two-state solution only to expose the real Abbas as someone who wants to talk about peace but do nothing concrete about it. Jerusalem, it seems, is also not interested in that solution, which is unfortunate.

That which is doubtful in Jerusalem, however, constitutes strong evidence in Ramallah. Abbas did not respond positively to Olmert and refused to discuss with Netanyahu the terms offered by Olmert. He accepted Netanyahu's freezing of settlement construction for ten months but still refused to negotiate. Until today, he has adamantly refused to relate to Olmert's offer. How can he prove that Israel does not want peace if he consistently refuses to talk to its government?

Olmert, and both of Kadima's factions — those of former Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and current Chairman Shaul Mofaz — are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and are providing encouragement to those in Europe and even the U.S. who wish to partially disengage from supporting Israel.

Unfortunately, Israel is not being flexible enough politically, possibly due to the upcoming elections. There is no doubt that Abbas has violated existing agreements by turning to the U.N. unilaterally for international recognition. But Israel could have behaved differently when it realized that the move could not be thwarted. Israel could have sat on the sidelines, dropped its steadfast opposition to the move, and even supported the Palestinian bid under the guise of keeping Abbas and his government afloat, in accordance with the saying: "If you can't beat them, join them."

Anyone who drives a vehicle with GPS knows the system's rerouting message. What was honorable until Operation Pillar of Defense could have changed after the successful operation by the Israel Defense Forces. Where sophistication was called for, Israel, in the midst of an election period, chose to use its fists.

Do we really want to build another 3,000 housing units? If so, we should just do it without talking too much about it, following the advice of the film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly": "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." The government's announcement has brought down upon us the wrath of the international community and is preventing us from pouring the cement in Area E1. The freezing of tax money generally transferred to the Palestinian Authority will also not happen. The world will force Israel to transfer the money to the very last cent, with interest. Their anger is a bad omen even for someone who is running a justified campaign.