Its the process, stupid

PM offers Abbas ‘Agreement of Principles’ on Palestinian statehood
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

I don’t believe that a meaningful agreement of principles will be achieved let alone agreement of final status issues. What Olmert wants is to have a “peace process”. In other words, the appearance of something. But with whom? Who is Abbas. What authority does he have. Even if Abbas gets the meaningless process started, will it be acceptable to Hamas or Saudi Arabia or Iran? Do Israelis really support a two state solution? Ted Belman

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is offering to hold negotiations toward an “Agreement of Principles” for the establishment of a Palestinian state on most of the territory of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Olmert’s proposal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is based on his view that it is important to first discuss issues that are relatively easy for the two sides to agree upon. No less important is Olmert’s assessment that such an accord will enjoy the overwhelming support of the Israeli public and the Knesset.

If Olmert’s proposal is accepted by the Palestinians, the two sides will begin negotiations on the characteristics of the Palestinian state, its official institutions, its economy, and the customs arrangement it will have with Israel.

After an “Agreement of Principles,” the two sides will tackle the more sensitive diplomatic issues, like final borders and the transit arrangements.

Such agreement is believed to offer both Abbas and Olmert domestic political gains, and the Palestinian leader will be able to use it as part of his reelection campaign.

According to surveys, Olmert knows that the Israeli public is overwhelmingly supportive of a two-state solution, and that the current balance of power in the Knesset will allow him to rally a firm majority of 82 MKs behind such an agreement.

In the prime minister’s view, this is not the time to deal with the minute details of the agreement, because it will be very difficult to reach agreement on final status issues, such as borders, Jerusalem and the refugees.

These, Olmert proposes, should be left to the end of the negotiations. Olmert would like to reach an agreement on principles, and then proceed to more difficult issues. This way, the prime minister claims, it will be possible to restart the peace process, in spite the weakness of the Palestinian Authority, and the skepticism regarding its ability to keep its part of the agreement and guarantee security.

The likely principles that Olmert will offer as part of the the agreement will be the establishment of a Palestinian state comprising about 90 percent of the territory of the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Even prior to the 2006 elections, Olmert suggested that Israel unilaterally evacuate from such territory in the West Bank, and withdraw to the separation fence, for the primary purpose of retaining a Jewish majority in its territory, behind a defensible border.

Palestinian support for such agreement will contribute to Israeli public and political support for the deal.

*Exchange of territory to compensate for the large settlement blocs that will remain under Israeli control in the West Bank.

*Connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through a tunnel in order to offer the Palestinians territorial contiguity, prevent friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and preserve security.

Israel will request territorial compensation for the digging of a tunnel in its sovereign territory. From Israel’s point of view, a tunnel connecting the West Bank and the Strip is the best option to link the two, and is better than the elevated or sunken highway proposals.

*The Palestinians will be able to declare Jerusalem their capital. In the past Olmert has hinted that he would be willing to withdraw from the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem “on the edge,” which have never been considered part of the historical city.

The Old City, its environs and the Mount of Olives would remain in Israel’s control.

The prime minister initiated discussions on the political vision during his recent meetings with Abbas. The goals and the framework of the negotiations was also discussed during the routine meetings between Olmert’s senior aides, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman and their Palestinian counterparts, Rafik Huseini and Saeb Erekat.

Olmert turned down the proposal of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a “shelf agreement,” which would be a complete final status agreement, negotiated by the U.S., whose implementation would be postponed.

The prime minister explained that he is concerned that the PA will be unable to implement the agreement.

Olmert is also worried that such a plan would be used as the starting points for further negotiations, as happened to the proposals of Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000, and the Clinton Plan, that are now seen by the international community as the basis to any future agreement.

July 25, 2007 | 6 Comments »

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. IMRA posted a poll today which included Israeli Arabs. The results were disturbing. Thye bracketed numbers are todays numbers.

    07 — [29] Kadima headed by Olmert
    — 23 [29] Kadima headed by Livni
    32 24 [12] Likud
    25 21 [19] labour

    Livni agaisnt Netanyahu appears equal. then there is Labour.

  2. Yamit, you site one survey, but the article references surveys that show overwhelming Israeli support for a two state solution.

    What are the true facts? Which surveys are more reliable and if so why? If the surveys actually show that 95% of the Israeli public are against any more land giveaways, then why would the press report otherwise and why does that misreporting not rile the public to roar in anger against the media and against Olmert?

    Hopefully Ted can prevail upon Mike Wise to directly comment in this discussion thread and elaborate on his advice to Ted which appears in post #2 above or to write a piece in that regard for posting as a new article.

  3. A poll on IBA tv show Politica showed that almost 70% are agaist giving up any more territory to PA.

    Olmert needs foreign policy Coup to help keep the wolves at bay and to survive in office with single digit popularity. He believes that to show some political momentum in the phony peace process will both enhance his popularity and get the leftist political parties on his side and prevent labour from bolting at first opportunistic moment for them. Its all spin but dangerous spinas precedents will have been established, promises made perceptions further entrenched. Any PM after Olmert will have it tough not to continue his giveaway program.

  4. If Mike Wise is right, then the surveys must be flawed.

    In light of the fact that all Israel-Palestinian agreements to date be they complete, tentative, partial, or conditional and no unilateral action by Israel to hasten the process of implementing agreements or the thinking behind the agreements has brought anything resembling peace and harmony. It has brought the opposite.

    What kind of responsible survery would conclude that the majority of Israelis are in favor of a two state solution if that support is conditional on an impossibility.

    Further, if Wise is right that 95% of Israelis are against any further retreat, the corollary is that they are in favor of annexation and that the two state solution, would mean an independent Palestinian state in Gaza only on condition of course that peace and harmony would be guaranteed.

    What does Mike Wise base his advice on? Facts or his own sense of things mixed in with the way he wants things to be?

    If Mike Wise does have it right however, then he should be taking Aluf Benn and Haaretz to task for misrepresenting the mood of Israelis and that should be done very publically.

  5. I just talked to Mike Wise who is a leading force behind the new demographic study and I asked him about the Israeli Public.

    He said everyone is for a two state solution if they can be assured that there will be peace and harmony.

    But no one believes it and 95% of Israelis don’t want further retreats.

    He also said that one of the reasons Bush supports the two state solution is because Olmert and Sharon before him , convinced him that because of the demographic problem there was no other solution. But there is no demographic problem.

  6. According to surveys, Olmert knows that the Israeli public is overwhelmingly supportive of a two-state solution, and that the current balance of power in the Knesset will allow him to rally a firm majority of 82 MKs behind such an agreement.

    If the survey questions and the choices they offered were clear and the surveys relied on statistically valid samples, then Feiglin and Eldad should just pack it in and Caroline Glick and all those who agree with her views of the Olmert government and its suicidal policies for Israel, should put down their pens and look to find other issues to write about, for Israel herself is then hopelessly lost.

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