Walid Awad
Arab News (Opinion)
April 9, 2008 - 8:50am

Unconfirmed reports circulating in the media say that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now busy with Palestinians drafting a preamble to a comprehensive peace agreement, a sort of another “declaration of principles”. A shelved document that will spell out all the core issues, and be adopted by the Quartet, the Security Council, and “moderate” Arab countries, to be signed by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, witnessed and co-signed by President George W. Bush in West Jerusalem during his visit to Israel next month.

Many recent statements made by American, Palestinian, and Israeli leaders point to a framework agreement being worked out ready for signing in the not too distant future. Therefore, one should not be surprised by the emergence of yet another “Declaration of Principles”. The fact is, such a document will serve many purposes, not necessarily to the advantage of the Palestinian people. Signing another DOP, the implementation of which will be deferred to some future date, will give Israel the time it needs to change realities on the ground. Bear in mind that immediately after the signing of the first DOP in Oslo in 1993, Israel built more Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory than ever before. Furthermore, most of the so-called bypass roads in the West Bank were built in the same period.

The situation now is no different. Since Annapolis, Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land has intensified. Report after report issued by Palestinian, Israeli and international observers, in addition to declarations issued by relevant Israeli authorities and settlement activities on the ground, testify to that. More and more roads around Arab Jerusalem and in the West Bank are no-go areas for Palestinian vehicles. The concrete separation wall and the Qalandia check point disconnecting Jerusalem neighborhoods from each other is an ongoing nightmare for school children, teachers, workers and ordinary Palestinian Jerusalemites trying to reach their destinations on the other side of the 8-meter concrete wall. The mutilation of Arab East Jerusalem and the hardships caused to its Palestinian population since Annapolis have reached higher levels of brutality and cruelty.

Not withstanding the above, President Mahmoud Abbas made frequent remarks alluding to the near-certainty of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel this year. President Bush recently told a German magazine he is optimistic about reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people this year. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region almost every other week, and she cannot, as she said to reporters, tell the media about everything going on in the negotiations. Heads of the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams, Ahmad Qurei and Tzipi Livni, are said to have had no less than 50 meetings, secret and otherwise, since Annapolis.

In view of all these developments, the only logical conclusion one can come up with is that the Bush administration is working hard to achieve a written conclusion on a piece of paper, with signatures of President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert on it, witnessed by President Bush, stating: A framework for a peace agreement is hereby reached, but shelved until the situation in the region is ripe for implementation, at an unknown future date. Israel, all the while changing the realities on the ground in its favor, does not mind signing another piece of paper destined to be shelved. More significantly, Israel will use the time to see to its other plans concerning Iran, Hezbollah and others. The recent visit by American Vice President Dick Cheney to Israel is not far removed from the said Israeli plans.

With regard to the implementation of the road map peace plan, Israel is not complying. Tony Blair, who was given the assignment of helping build Palestinian state institutions, and bring life back into the Palestinian economy, is nowhere to be seen. It seems he has had enough of Israeli procrastination. The American generals who were given the task of training Palestinian security forces apparently cannot do their job as they wished. They made their complaints to the Israeli leadership known.

President Abbas, a man of integrity, and honesty, believes in the American administration. He informed the American administration of his categorical objection to a Palestinian state with temporary borders. The Americans seem to have agreed. Abbas told the Americans he wants all core issues to be placed on the negotiating table, including Jerusalem. Americans and Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni also agreed. The bottom line here is that President Abbas placed all his bets on an American administration in its twilight period. Will they deliver? We will find out soon enough.

The Israeli and American agenda can make do with a piece of paper labeled a “declaration of principles” essentially meant to placate Palestinians and Arabs while Israel prepares itself for a possible flare-up with Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and or Hamas. The Palestinian people and the Arabs will not accept another piece of paper.

To conclude, there is a Palestinian presidency and a Palestinian government working in tandem, complementing each other, and striving for real, just and comprehensive peace. The presidency headed by Abbas, and his government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, under the right circumstances, and with serious and credible support from the Quartet, particularly the EU and the United States, is willing and eager to reach a real, ready-to-implement, peace agreement with Israel. No one should play the phased or “shelved” solution approach again. It did not work before. This time it will be disastrous.


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