Ari Shavit
Haaretz (Opinion)
September 16, 2010 - 12:00am

On October 5, 1995, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin presented the Oslo 2 accord to the Knesset. In the speech he made on that momentous occasion, Rabin pledged that in the final-status agreement, Jerusalem would remain united, the settlement blocs would remain part of Israel and the security border would be the Jordan Valley. He also said Israel would not return to the June 4, 1967 lines and that the Palestinians would run their own lives in the framework of an entity that would be less than a state.

There are only three possible explanations for Rabin having said these things, which a month later became his last political will and testament. One is that he was a fool. He did not understand that there can be no Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement without dividing Jerusalem. The second is that he was a liar. He knowingly said things that were not true about the parameters of the future peace.

The third explanation is that Rabin had a completely different concept of peace from the one attributed to him after he was murdered - a concept opposed to the one the Americans are now trying to force on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rabin was neither a fool nor a liar. He was a student of Henry Kissinger. Rabin and Kissinger believed that the occupation could not last and that the settlements were a disaster, but that peace was distant. Therefore, they thought that instead of seeking an impossible final-status agreement, they should work toward a long-term interim agreement: an agreement that would not end the conflict, but would quiet it down.

Such an agreement would not solve the problems of Jerusalem and the refugees, but it would establish an independent Palestinian entity. It would allow Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side without ruling over each other and without killing each other.

Netanyahu is now to the left of where Rabin was when he was murdered. Netanyahu is prepared to go farther than the point of which Rabin spoke when he stood before the Knesset.

Like Rabin, Netanyahu demands Jerusalem, the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley. But unlike Rabin, Netanyahu has come to terms with the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state. The positions of the leader of the right in 2010 are more moderate than the positions of the leader of the left in 1995.

But there is a problem: In exchange for what Netanyahu is willing to give, he is demanding an end to the conflict. In exchange for an end to the conflict, the Palestinians are demanding what he is not wiling to give.

Thus a stupid situation has been created in which Netanyahu's new willingness to make concessions cannot come to fruition. Even if he wanted to be Rabin, the current trajectory of the peace process does not allow it. The trail that led to the abyss of Camp David and the abyss of Annapolis is leading to the abyss today as well.

A permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace requires the fulfillment of six well-known principles: recognition of a Jewish and democratic state, establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, the division of Jerusalem, an extensive evacuation of settlements, no right of return for Palestinian refugees and agreement on a border. But there is at least one principle to which the Palestinians will not agree: They will not give up their demand for a right of return. And there is at least one principle to which Netanyahu will not agree: He will not share sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Therefore, the attempt now underway now to deal with the core of the conflict is like trying to enter the core of Chernobyl. Peace will not emerge. An explosion certainly will.

The only solution is to think out of the box. Not to fail exactly where presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush did, but to return to the pragmatic path of Kissinger and Rabin. To sit Israelis and Palestinians down in a closed room and task them with formulating a long-term interim agreement.

True, the Palestinians are saying no. Ostensibly, they want full peace now. But in fact, they are not prepared to pay the price of peace.

Therefore, they have to be persuaded that sustaining the process Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has begun in the West Bank requires a different approach. Saving sane Palestinian nationalism requires a different political idea.

Instead of U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell making fools of themselves in a vain effort to reach a barren agreement, they should immediately start preparing an alternative plan: division of the land now, peace later.


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