The common wisdom is that the Annapolis talks will fail because neither the
Israeli government under Ehud Olmert nor the Palestinian Authority under
Mahmoud Abbas is strong enough to make serious concessions to the
other. There the symmetry ends.
The Olmert government has all of the deficiencies of a multi-party
parliamentary democracy dependent on a fragile coalition. But, if the P.A.
had in its head that it needed to make serious concessions to Israel, the
internal tensions of its political system wouldn't define or delimit the
possibilities and options. The Palestinians live in a fantasy world: the
more obstinate they are and the more demands they make the more Israel will
give. So let's face the hard truth. The package pushed by Bill Clinton
and agreed to by Ehud Barak in the fall of 2000 is no longer an
option. And every time some sage commentator adds a goodie or two to the
strategic grab-bag for the P.A., he persuades Abbas and Fayad and the nice
and reasonable people around them -- just in case you don't get it, this is
irony! -- that they can make more demands. Even demands upon which their
presence at Annapolis depends, like the release of 2,000 prisoners in
advance of the conference. Or that Area E between Ma'aleh Adumin and
Jerusalem be forfeited. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a mirage. The
longer the Palestinians prevaricate the less they will get. This is a
fact, as Area E's incorporation into the Jewish State is also a fact.
But, say the friends of Palestine and those who pretend to be friends of
Israel, the Olmert government must strengthen the non-functioning, almost
non-existent regime of Abbas. Israel must do everything it can to bolster
Abbas, to make him plausible to his own people, to make him viable in his
struggle with Hamas. This is the greatest delusion, that Israel can
somehow blow political life into an artificial and listless entity, which
is what the P.A. is. Israel can give the P.A. guns which it has
done. Israel can hand over cities and villages which it has done. It has
taken down checkpoints. Still, this does not a functioning authority make.
The real problem is that no one can govern Palestine, not the Palestinians
and not the Israelis. Perhaps, if it were not hampered by the false
sentimentality of the NGOs and other such, Jordan would be able to bring
some order to the divided and divisive people who sit between Israel and
the river. Otherwise, no formula works.
And that is because Palestine is just a small glob of land. It is not an
idea that inspires or motivates, except the madmen among the
Palestinians. They already have Gaza.