Friday, September 5, 2008
Abbas restates the obvious on peace with Israel
The only good news in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' comment to Israeli President Shimon Peres that a comprehensive peace deal may not be attainable this year is that the two leaders actually met in Italy this week. The rest of Abbas' comment "it appears as if we will not be able to reach full agreement of the issues of Jerusalem, borders, refugees and water by the end of the year," as reported by the Reuters international news service, is mere rhetoric. The Palestinian Authority certainly must understand that it at least demonstrate the power to control its own territory before it can seriously negotiate a peace deal, no matter who becomes prime minister of Israel later this year. "We are determined to continue accelerated diplomatic negotiations concurrently with the change of administration in the United States," Abbas said, according to Reuters. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also was in Italy, told Reuters that there still may be a chance for an agreement this year. But if Israel's latest proposal -- to give the Palestinian Authority 92.7 percent of the occupied West Bank, all of Gaza and another desert territory -- is not acceptable, it's hard to know what is. The Palestinian Authority appears to be holding out for an agreement to share the city of Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its capital, and a settlement of claims by Palestinians who fled Israel when the Jewish state was established in 1948. But these issues are not resolvable by the current governments and are being raised by the Palestinian Authority out of fear, to ensure that no agreement is reached. Division of Jerusalem is a preposterous idea -- Arabs and Jews know this idea is unworkable. But if Israel is going to retain control of Jerusalem, it will have to commit to and figure out a way to permit Palestinians to visit Christian and Muslim holy sites. The so-called right-of-return issue probably can be settled with money, but only if the Arab nations that back the Palestinian Authority agree to similarly compensate Jewish families - and there are thousands -- who were forced to flee Arab cities before and after the establishment of Israel.