THE SPINE NOVEMBER 4, 2007
The common wisdom is that the Annapolis talks will fail because neither the Israeli government under Ehud Olmert nor the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas is strong enough to make serious concessions to the other. There the symmetry ends.The Olmert government has all of the deficiencies of a multi-party parliamentary democracy dependent on a fragile coalition. But, if the P.A. had in its head that it needed to make serious concessions to Israel, the internal tensions of its political system wouldn't define or delimit the possibilities and options. The Palestinians live in a fantasy world: the more obstinate they are and the more demands they make the more Israel will give. So let's face the hard truth. The package pushed by Bill Clinton and agreed to by Ehud Barak in the fall of 2000 is no longer an option. And every time some sage commentator adds a goodie or two to the strategic grab-bag for the P.A., he persuades Abbas and Fayad and the nice and reasonable people around them -- just in case you don't get it, this is irony! -- that they can make more demands. Even demands upon which their presence at Annapolis depends, like the release of 2,000 prisoners in advance of the conference. Or that Area E between Ma'aleh Adumin and Jerusalem be forfeited. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a mirage. The longer the Palestinians prevaricate the less they will get. This is a fact, as Area E's incorporation into the Jewish State is also a fact.
But, say the friends of Palestine and those who pretend to be friends of Israel, the Olmert government must strengthen the non-functioning, almost non-existent regime of Abbas. Israel must do everything it can to bolster Abbas, to make him plausible to his own people, to make him viable in his struggle with Hamas. This is the greatest delusion, that Israel can somehow blow political life into an artificial and listless entity, which is what the P.A. is. Israel can give the P.A. guns which it has done. Israel can hand over cities and villages which it has done. It has taken down checkpoints. Still, this does not a functioning authority make.The real problem is that no one can govern Palestine, not the Palestinians and not the Israelis. Perhaps, if it were not hampered by the false sentimentality of the NGOs and other such, Jordan would be able to bring some order to the divided and divisive people who sit between Israel and the river. Otherwise, no formula works.And that is because Palestine is just a small glob of land. It is not an idea that inspires or motivates, except the madmen among the Palestinians. They already have Gaza.