By Ben Dror Yemini
3 April 2009
Over the past two years Israel has made enormous efforts to promote the peace process. Why haven’t we heard about it?
Ehud Olmert’s administration has completed its job. Now, a bit after the fact, it turns out that one of the most important processes conducted by that administration was criminally suppressed.
The outgoing administration was conducting a serious dialogue with the Palestinian leadership. The talks themselves were no secret. The details were confidential. Things reached a peak with a proposal made by the outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen. Olmert mentioned it, quite offhandedly, in a speech he made last week at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Israel’s very shaky international standing stems from the fact that it is perceived by many - not just anti-Zionists and anti-Semites - as rejecting peace. Israelis, according to the horrible descriptions, are warmongers. They have absolutely no interest in a settlement or in peace or in conciliation. The reality, however, is different. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Over the past two years, Israel has made enormous efforts to promote a peace settlement, both with Syria, which made the headlines, and with the Palestinians.
Israel kept that generosity under wraps. The lies will spread at top speed and official Israel will remain silent. It has a winning card in its hand, but it will conceal it.
So what is this all about? It is about an unprecedented political proposal. Far more generous than the one made to Yassir Arafat by Ehud Barak at Camp David, and even more generous than the Clinton mediation. As defined by Olmert, who only mentioned it in passing without launching any headlines, it involves “a proposal that has never been made and which touched on the core of the problems.”
And what was Abu Mazen’s reply? According to Olmert, he is “still waiting for the response.”
Six months have passed since Olmert’s proposal was given to Abu Mazen on September 16, 2009. Israel kept it a secret.
Politically, if Israel was conducting a public relations campaign for itself, and had raised the proposal in some international forum in a way that would have grabbed headlines around the world, the benefit for Israel would have been tremendous. But there would also have been political considerations. First, that was the stage at which any proposal by Olmert would have been considered another attempt by the man to protect himself.
At that stage, it was more important for most left wingers to get rid of Olmert than to promote peace. And second, Israel was afraid that such a public proposal would turn into the starting point for any future negotiations. Either way, the political loss is immense. Israel continues to be perceived as intransigent, Abu Mazen can present himself as a seeker of peace, and the Palestinian rejectionist groups continue to achieve their long-term goals - wasting time in order to create an irreversible reality of one big state.
How is it that the Palestinians are refusing a Palestinian state? Actually they were never interested in it. It doesn’t matter what proposal they receive: 93% of the territories, 96% or even 100% - they will always say “no.” That is no surprise. If Abu Mazen were to accept Olmert’s proposal, it would have been a change of direction. Because the Palestinians said “no.”
“No” to the Peel Commission, which gave the Palestinians 83% of the western Land of Israel. They said “no” to the partition proposal in 1947 that granted them 44%. They said “no” as part of the three negatives of Khartoum after the Six Day War. They continued to say “no” to the proposals made by Barak at Camp David in 1999.
And they also said “no” to Clinton’s proposal at the beginning of 2001. Of all the offers made after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Clinton outline was the most generous. As always, there are those who claim that there is no proposal, that there was no proposal, or that is was not generous enough. Lies and nonsense.
According to Bandar Bin Sultan, who was the Saudi ambassador to the United States at the time, the proposal included an Israeli withdrawal from 97% of the territories, the partition of Jerusalem and more. The day on which Arafat and his entourage arrived for the meeting with Bill Clinton in the White House on January 2, 2001, Bin Sultan went to meet Arafat at the airport.
They sat and talked in the Ritz Hotel in Washington. The Saudi ambassador explained to Arafat that if he were to reject Clinton’s proposal, it would be a “crime against the Palestinian people and against the entire region.” Arafat entered the White House. Bin Sultan went looking for him after the meeting. Arafat evaded him. The picture became clear within a few hours: Arafat had committed a crime. He had rejected Clinton’s proposal. This is not Zionist propaganda. These are the words of Bin Sultan himself.
We simply didn’t listen to Arafat
Arafat’s rejectionism should not have come as a surprise. In a speech in Johannesburg in 1994, Arafat said that signing a peace accord would be a trick, just like the Treaty of Hudaibiyah which was signed by Muhammad. There were those who tried to claim that this was erroneously interpreted and that he did not intend the annihilation of Israel. Really? Well, Arafat insisted on explaining. In another speech in 1995, this time in Cairo, he reiterated to students that the Oslo accords were Hudaibiyah treaties.
What did he mean? It was finally clarified in his speech in Stockholm in 1996, in which he explained to ambassadors of Arab countries: “We intend to annihilate Israel and to establish a pure Palestinian state. We will make the lives of the Jews a misery and we will take everything from them.” But we did not want to listen.
The work of villains
Abu Mazen was with Arafat in those days. He was not the modifying factor. Sometimes he was the rejectionist indicator. Even without Arafat’s charisma, he is well versed in the rules of the game. He will never be caught in a Johannesburg speech. He is actually very good with words that are suitable for Western ears. And at the same time, he continues to reject every agreement.
Just like Arafat before him. On the one hand, Arafat thanked Clinton for his efforts, even though he, of course, rejected the proposal. On the other hand, in the document explaining the rejection, Fatah explained that the Clinton administration was controlled by extremist Zionists, that the Jews had no rights to the Wailing Wall and that there must be persistence regarding the right of return because it would “wean the Jews off racist Zionism.” Fatah changed the music.
Not the goal. Only a week ago, Muhammad Dahlan said that Fatah never recognized, was not required to recognize, and never would recognize the State of Israel. And therefore, he added, “There is no need to require Hamas to recognize Israel.” And this, please remember, is the most moderate of the moderates. The man suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Many Palestinians want peace and are prepared to stop the suffering at the price of compromise and recognizing Israel. But in anything connected with the leadership of Hamas and Fatah, the goal was, and remains, the elimination of Israel by delegitimization on the one hand and the establishment of “one big state” on the other.
“The outgoing administration,” said the president of Israel at the swearing-in ceremony for the new administration, “set policy for two states.” But the Palestinians have decided that such a state, if it comes to be, will not exist alongside the Jewish state but, rather, in place of it. It could be called the “state of all its citizens,” it could be called a “bi-national state,” it could be called “one big state.” The Palestinians know very well why they are refusing.
Time is passing. And the Jews - in their stupidity, the big state is already being established. Because it really doesn’t matter what Israel offers them and even takes the trouble to hide what it offers them. What is important is what Israel does. The Israel of Barak and Olmert has continued with the joy of creating the big state.
Barak and Netanyahu will continue with that same joy of creation, to the delight of Haniya, Mashal, Abu Mazen and Dahlan. The work of villains and anti-Zionists will continue to be done by ultra-Zionists.