Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peace Ploys

Regardless of whether trying to negotiate a peace with Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah while isolating Hamas is a good idea, the train has left the station, and serious negotiations have been under way for several weeks. Today Haaretz published specifics of the ideas under discussion ahead of the November peace conference:
"Borders -- The starting point is the separation fence, without additional areas slated for the expansion of settlements. This leaves 92 percent of the area of the West Bank in Palestinian hands. The final area of the new state will be larger than the area east of the fence, but smaller than the area proposed in the Geneva Accord.

"Among themselves, Israeli officials talk about the need to begin applying the principles of the Evacuation-Compensation Law on West Bank settlers. Two bills have recently been proposed on this issue, one by Colette Avital (Labor) and Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), and the other by Amir Peretz and Yuli Tamir (Labor).

"Jerusalem -- According to a government official, Israel would be willing to transfer to the Palestinians at an early stage a number of neighborhoods and refugee camps outside the fence and in the area of the Seam Line. At a later stage, it would transfer more or most of the Arab neighborhoods.

"The guiding principle is similar to that of the Clinton Plan: Jewish areas for Jews and Arab areas for Arabs. The 'basin' of sacred sites in the Old City would be administered jointly by representatives of the three religions, each responsible for its own sites.

"Refugees -- Israel would recognize Palestinian refugee suffering and accept indirectly some responsibility for the refugees from the 1948 war. Israel would also take part in an international project to rehabilitate refugees in Palestine, in areas Israel would transfer to the Palestinians and in the countries where they are now living."

There are some interesting ideas here, but left to one side is the overall political reality, one which works both for and against the peace process. Both Olmert and Abbas are weak leaders looking for dramatic moves in the peace process to buttress their own popularity. Coming to an agreement, however, isn't really as hard as people say it is. The hard part is coming to an agreement that your constituents will support and trust you to implement.

I suspect Abbas has been deliberately giving the impression of frustration with Israel so as to counter the impression that he is a Palestinian quisling. I don't think, however, that this will have much bearing on the real problem from a realpolitik point of view, which is whether factions rejecting the agreement, and the operating assumption has to be that Hamas will be among them, can scuttle the agreement via the too frequently successful "bomber's veto."

Olmert, meanwhile, is not without problems from his end. Today's Jerusalem Post reports that ten or more Kadima MK's are considering leaving the party before the fall release of the final Winograd report. That would leave intact Olmert's coalition, which currently has a 78-42 majority, especially if some of those defectors join up with Labor. Kadima, however, could force Olmert out as chairman. We don't know whether his potential successors would chart the same course. At the same time, Olmert has been able to hold his ship together thus far, so the man's political survival skills should perhaps not be underestimated.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home