Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel met Sunday in Egypt in the highest-level contact between the sides since Hamas…won the Palestinian elections in January.
The two met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Sharm el Sheik…and Ms. Livni said she envisioned talks between Mr. Abbas and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.
“After some preparations, a meeting of the president with Prime Minister Olmert will be the next step,” Ms. Livni said, according to Reuters.
I’m afraid that President Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t have even the power to take charge of his own government. So how can he represent that government in the most crucial, complex and sensitive negotiations…
Mahmoud Abbas was deprived of all his powers [after Hamas’ election victory]. He is powerless. He is helpless. He is unable to even stop the minimal terror activities amongst the Palestinians, so how can he seriously negotiate with Israel and assume responsibility for the most major, fundamental issues that are in controversy between us and them?
–Ehud Olmert on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
It’s a pretty shell game that the Israeli government is playing all for the benefit of George Bush and Condi Rice as Olmert arrives for his first White House meeting since becoming prime minister. You see, Israel has to look like it is open to talking to (if not negotiating with) the Palestinians–hence Livni’s making nice-nice at Sharm. But it also has to set up the game so it can vitiate the idea of talking even before it happens. We’ll talk with the dwarf but you can’t seriously expect us to talk about anything significant, can you?
Meanwhile at almost the same precise moment, Olmert in the above interview pats little Mahmoud on the head saying he’s a lovely fellow, but rather a nonentity when it comes to representing his people and therefore no real partner for a serious negotiation. As Robert Rosenberg says in today’s Ariga.com column, Abbas certainly seems to be a figure supported by the U.S., the international community and the Palestinians themselves. The only party who holds Olmert’s views seems to be–you guessed it, Israel! What a coincidence:
The Israelis have given up on Abbas — but the Americans and Europeans have not. Indeed, even the Palestinians seemingly have not given up on Abbas. Polls still show Abbas’ pro-negotiations position to be the most popular political position among Palestinians, with the two state solution…as their choice.
The Israelis aren’t fooling anyone. Certainly not the Palestinians. Not even the Americans who’ve told Olmert to tamp down the expectations that his “convergence” plan will be seriously considered at this meeting. The only ones the Israeli government may be fooling is themselves. They must really believe they’re presenting a serious and moderate face to the world which will go far toward securing their plans for squeezing the Palestinians into a territorial cantonment while it appropriates territory to which it has no right. Such delusions can only be met by at some point by the cold, hard reality that they have been rejected by the entire world community. At that point, it will be something like the cold, hard brutal reality that faced Ariel Sharon and the Israeli public who’d supported the settler movement for decades only to realize last summer that it’d led the nation down a dead end. This is something like what will happen to Olmert’s convergence plan and his idea that he can render Abbas pasul (“unsuitable”) simply by waving his magic wand at him and mumbling the words: “No partner.”
Some day Israel will negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas or his successor. It will have to be dragged screaming and kicking to do so. And when it does it will have hurt itself and its Palestinian interlocutor no end by all the previous bad-mouthing. Israel will look the fool for doing the very thing it swore it would never do: negotiate with a “dwarf.”
I’m not sure what you would recommend Israel do at this point. Any agreement, if it’s to have any force, has to be approved by Hamas because they control the government. I don’t think Olmert meant to insult Abbas as much as he merely pointed out that most of his power has been stripped from him. As far as Olmert’s plan regarding the border, what’s your suggestion?
Richard Silverstein says
I’ve said it several times before here: a return to ’67 borders with some border adjustments allowing Israel to incorporate the very biggest settlement blocs. I’d say if Israel absorbed only 2-3% of Palestinian land instead of the 10% or so Olmert proposes under his plan that might be workable. Of course, Israel would exchange this land for Negev land it would give up to the Palestinians.
Tzipi Livni is Olmert’s ‘mouthpiece’ and she’s dismissed Abbas with thinly veiled contempt. Olmert himself has done virtually the same in this CNN interview. How can you possibly believe he didn’t “mean to insult Abbas?” Of course he did. Now, one might argue that he was doing it for domestic consumption in order to mollify the Likud hardliners who’re gunning for him. But I have no doubt that in his heart of hearts Olmert, like Sharon before him, has nothing but contempt for the Palestinians & specifically their elected leaders, including Abbas.