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Bush and Abbas - Time is not right for talks, Avineri says
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Say ‘No’ to Road Map

Israeli-Palestinian talks at this time doomed to failure

The completion of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northwestern Samaria raises the question of the next political moves. International parties, as well as groups in Israel, are talking about an attempt to go back to the U.S.-brokered Road Map peace initiative.

 

There would be no greater mistake. The Road Map was never more than a list of desires and the fact is everything that took place on the ground, namely an Israeli withdrawal of historic significance and a relative lull in violence on the part of Palestinian terror groups, did not stem from the Map, but rather, political wants on both sides.

 

This will be the case in the future, too.

 

The gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian positions, which emerged in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, have not narrowed. The opposite
may be true, following four years of massive Palestinian terror attacks and harsh Israeli responses.

 

Whoever thinks gaps related to final-status borders, the future of more than 200,000 West Bank settlers, and the questions of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee problem, can be bridged now, is simply living in a world of delusions and illusions.

 

Even a more limited agenda, such as negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state within “temporary borders,” is unrealistic. It is clear that the Palestinians will insist that the deal also outline the permanent borders of such state, something Israel would not agree to.

 

More unilateral moves?

 

What can be done then? Only several unilateral moves on both sides. On the part of Israel: Seriously consider the possibility of disengaging from close to 20 isolated West Bank communities. Such move, despite the inherent difficulties, is politically viable and would provide the Palestinians with an area that enjoys territorial contiguity.

 

On the Palestinian side: The strengthening of Palestinian Authority control over its security services and armed militias, including the Hamas. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas knows well that no Israeli government would hold talks with him unless he’s the master of his own house.

 

He already formulated the objective of “one government, one law, one rifle” – now we’ll be able to see if he can realize it.

 

What is also needed is the beginning of an internal Palestinian process where the leadership tells refugees in the camps, in contradiction to the propaganda they’ve been fed in the past 50 years, that they will not be returning to Israel.

 

Those who say this will be difficult for the Palestinians are correct, of course. The evacuation of Gush Katif was also difficult. Painful decisions are essential, but on both sides, not only on the part of Israel.

 

Such moves would reduce the friction, and perhaps lay the groundwork for meaningful talks in the future. Whoever rushes into negotiations now is doomed for failure, and such failure, as was proven in Camp David, does not mark a return to square one, but rather, a fall into an abyss.

 

Shlomo Avineri is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University and former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

פרסום ראשון: 09.01.05, 09:39
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