The Jordan Times (Opinion)
October 11, 2007 - 2:57pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has laid out his clearest vision yet for what he expects any final agreement with Israel to give Palestinians.

There is nothing truly new in it: as expected, it simply outlines the traditional Palestinian demands for a complete end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sovereignty over the natural resources of that land as well as its borders, and a just resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

As such, Abbas has placed himself firmly in line not only with the expectations of his own people, but with the relevant provisions of international law and the Arab Peace Initiative.

He has also caused Israelis, who might have thought that he was prepared to sign any document they might present him, a major headache. This, after all, is a Palestinian leader the Israeli government has officially declared as one that seriously seeks peace, as compared to the hostile Israeli attitude towards Yasser Arafat and its complete rejection of Hamas.

So what now for Israel?

The ball is in its court, after all, volleyed firmly back by Abbas after leaks of Israeli plans for a “division” of Jerusalem that would see “Arab” neighbourhoods go to Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighbourhoods to Israelis; in other words, legitimise the Israeli landgrab in occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City.

Contrary to received wisdom, Israel has never really had strong leadership when it came to making peace with the Palestinians. Strong leadership in war, true, but not in peace. And the simple fact is that while the world is often told that a majority of Israelis wants peace with Palestinians based on a two-state solution, it is never clearly spelt out to the Israelis what kind of solution that may be. So, for instance, after an Israeli minister talked about the division of Jerusalem, a clear majority of Israelis declared themselves opposed.

A strong Israeli leader would point out to his/her people that there is a difference in kind between peace based on the absence of conflict and peace based on the resolution of the causes of conflict, the latter being preferable.

There is a clear majority on the Palestinian side for the kind of solution that Abbas, international law and the Arab Peace Initiative advocate.

So where Israeli leaders fail, there, perhaps, is room for Washington to step in. The White House might care to ponder that its efforts to convene a meeting at Annapolis would stand so much more chance of success if the Arab Peace Initiative were adopted as its blueprint.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017