Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wishes to boost Palestinian President Abbas. President George W. Bush also wishes to strengthen him. The approach chosen to achieve this objective is to send weapons to forces affiliated with Abbas so that they can fight against forces loyal to Hamas, Fatah's partner in the Palestinian national unity government.
On the other hand, Olmert maintains his decisive objection to dialogue on a final-status agreement.
What we see here are three grave mistakes: First, the last thing we need to add to the Palestinian Authority is more weapons. When the PA was established, it had to be allowed to acquire arms, because without enforcing law and order there would have been no significance to the creation of such Authority.
Today, arming one element in the PA due to the intention to see Fatah twist Hamas' arm soon could end up as a terrible boomerang. The historical experience of such "boosts" is horrifying. Moreover, in this case it would constitute an incentive for Hamas to arm itself even more, and if clashes between the two sides break out it would not be much of a gamble to assume Hamas would emerge victorious.
Don't count on Arab Initiative
Secondly, Abbas can only be strengthened through one tool – namely, negotiations on a final-status agreement. Hamas is unwilling to engage in dialogue with Israel and prefers that the PLO, headed by Abbas, do that. The latter has espoused for many years the advancement of a final-status agreement and has shown strong reservations when it comes to intermediate agreements.
If Abbas succeeds in this move and is able to submit a draft agreement with Israel to a Palestinian referendum he would be stronger than all his opponents. If all he can bring to his people is regular bi-weekly meetings with Olmert to discuss the Karni Crossing's hours of operation, Abbas would lose even more authority and pay a heavy political price.
Thirdly, Olmert declares that he is willing to engage in dialogue with the Arab League regarding a diplomatic solution between Israel and the Palestinians, but there is no chance for such negotiations to take place. The Arab Initiative's bottom line is that if Israel makes peace with the Palestinians and Syrians, Arab states would maintain normal ties with it. The Arab world would not be objecting to one clause or another in bilateral agreements, should such agreements be signed, and as a result the principles appearing in the Arab Initiative are very general and do not constitute a substitute for negotiations.
By the way, should the Arab League decide to put itself in the Palestinians' shoes and engage in dialogue in their place, we can assume that its positions would be much less compromising than the Palestinian positions.
Israelis, Palestinians pay price
I fail to grasp the logic that guides the prime minister. Only the plethora of investigations launched against him may serve to explain why he chooses to fire in all directions instead of maintaining a consistent policy aimed at reaching an objective he believes in himself, based on his speeches: Namely, ending the occupation, which has been lasting for 40 years now, through negotiations, or via a unilateral move should talks fail.
It is sad to see how figures such as Sharon and Olmert, who reached positions of influence while holding on to a very hawkish worldview, ended up advocating positions that doves would not even imagine proposing – ranging from withdrawal without getting anything in exchange to handing over weapons to one Palestinian group, as pragmatic as it may be, in order for it to undermine another group.
Those who pay the price of these mistakes are Israelis and Palestinians, who see peace moving further away, and meanwhile are forced to live with lack of security and concern over the next war, which is facing them from newspaper headlines.