|Abbas with Olmert
Our journalist friend, Doug Chandler, notes the following on his Facebook page:
WHILE NO ONE would pay any attention if a member of the Israeli right excoriated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, . . . people snap to attention when the criticism is being voiced by Shlomo Avineri, an esteemed professor at Hebrew University who has written about the dangers of religious nationalism, backs a two-state solution and has long been considered part of the Israeli left. The criticism — that Abbas’ negotiating tactic has long been to squeeze concessions out of Israel while offering none of his own, cut off talks and then insist that the next Israeli government start off where things were “left off” before [“Don’t expect Abbas to sign anything“] — . . . touched off a spirited debate, with one political observer, Akiva Eldar, responding directly to Avineri in another op-ed [“Abbas won’t agree to a nominal state“].
Whether Avineri or Eldar is more correct depends upon how we view Abbas’ negotiations with Olmert (2007-08) and the letter of agreement signed with Beilin late in ’95. The Beilin agreement found a way to deal with settlements by introducing the concept of the “settlement blocs” and an exchange of territories to compensate the Palestinians for their incorporation into Israel; this avenue still is the best hope for a two-state agreement, but has been obscured by Rabin’s murder days later and Netanyahu’s electoral triumph over Peres half a year later.
|Visiting Ramallah in 2012
The Olmert-Abbas negotiations ended not because Abbas walked away after pocketing Olmert’s concessions, as Avineri argues, but because Olmert’s team was not ready to conclude a deal when invited by Pres. George W. Bush and Condi Rice during the final weeks of Bush’s presidency. Olmert was diverted both by his legal difficulties and the unwise decision to massively attack Gaza at that time. Read Bernard Avishai on this: “What Commentary Gets Wrong About Olmert-Abbas Negotiations.”