|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.”
And by championing the settlement bloc idea the Beilin/Abu Mazen agreement legitimized the blurring of the Green Line. With Israel’s “left” having conceded the the Green Line, the moving of the goal posts has just continued since then, until we are where we are today – only bantustan options.
So Meretz’s sanctioning of land swaps for the settlement blocs was actually instrumental in helping to bring about the end of the two state option. Amazingly, having helped to kill two states year ago, Meretzniks cling to it nonetheless, in an odd state of denial.
First of all, Beilin was a Labor Party official at the time, not a member of Meretz. But more importantly, as indicated in this post, Rabin was assassinated days after this framework agreement was worked out. His death led to the less steady leadership of his successor Peres, who lost the election to Netanyahu six months later.
The peace camp was effectively decapitated with Rabin’s murder, and the erratic maneuvering of Peres and later Barak, were of leaders who were less confident and less competent to lead a very difficult process to a successful conclusion.
None of this had to with Meretz, which at best was a junior partner, and at times even a dissenting voice. And none of this means that a two-state solution isn’t the best way to go for both peoples.