Friday - Kadima slips
Want to know why the latest polls show Kadima running a solid second behind Likud? It's not because centrist Israelis have suddenly become more hawkish - they've simply lost faith in Kadima as a coherent third way party. Middle Israel no longer trusts it to oversee negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority.
Our prime minister and foreign minister, respectively, have been negotiating with Abbas and Ahmed Qurei since the November 2007 Annapolis conference. By holding continuous bilateral negotiations aimed at concluding a deal by the end of 2008, Annapolis sought to supplant the moribund April 2003 road map.
The road map was a reciprocal arrangement: Israel would freeze all settlements, including "natural growth"; the Palestinians would end violence. But Palestinian terrorism continued unabated, so Israeli leaders had no incentive to freeze settlements. Annapolis was an attempt to leapfrog over the messy problem of noncompliance by going directly to a final status agreement.
Sure enough, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni negotiated energetically with Abbas and Qurei. Thanks to an interview Olmert gave Yediot Aharonot on Rosh Hashana eve (September 29, 2008), and a series of shameless leaks from his office to that tabloid - including one just yesterday - we pretty much know what Kadima has offered the Palestinians: Just about total withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines, the boundaries from which the 1967 war broke out; including east Jerusalem. A settlement freeze has become a moot issue now that Olmert has offered the Palestinians much, much more.
Kadima is reportedly planning to uproot 70,000 Israelis (out of roughly 250,000) living beyond the Green Line. Large settlement blocs like Ma'aleh Adumim, which abuts the capital on the east, would be annexed to Israel. In return, the Palestinians would take possession of an equal amount of land in southern Israel.
Kadima plans to transfer to Palestinian sovereignty Arab neighborhoods which encircle Jerusalem on the east, north and south. Holy places, presumably including the Western Wall and Temple Mount, would be placed in the custody of an international body. A tunnel or bridge would connect the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to provide "Palestine" with territorial contiguity.
Except for refusing to absorb millions of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents within the Green Line - thereby having Israel commit national suicide - Olmert has given Abbas just about everything he could hope for.
Livni has criticized Olmert only for breaking his Annapolis oath to negotiate in secrecy.
WHAT fascinates is that Olmert, without addressing in tandem security, has publicized the most far-reaching concessions of any Israeli leader since the territories came into Israeli hands.
This revelation, unaccompanied by explicit assurances that Olmert and Livni have answers to the security dilemmas posed by their momentous territorial withdrawals, will cause many middle-of-the-road Israelis to lose sleep. Those who live or study in areas of Jerusalem slated to become frontline outposts abutting "Palestine" - places such as East Talpiot, Gilo and Mount Scopus - will want to know what this means for them. Those living in Kfar Saba, Hadera, Afula and Arad will also become frontline communities. Similarly, and equally worryingly, Israel's main airport will fall within range of rudimentary, shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles.
It gives us no comfort to hear Livni say "the Palestinians' military capability is not a threat." Perhaps, but it has made life in southern Israel wretched and can make life along the coastal plain and Jerusalem equally miserable.
Given that Israel has found no effective answer to Hamas's aggression from Gaza, does Kadima have a contingency plan, should all of "Palestine" fall to Hamas?
Meanwhile, we find it mind-boggling that Abbas, rather than taking Olmert's concessions to his people, has rejected them out of hand, telling US officials that he is uncompromising on his demand for a total Israeli pullback to the 1949 lines. He also refuses to renounce the "right of return."
Kadima's leaders have reacted to Abbas's intransigence and historic shortsightedness with more blather about the need for Israeli concessions; but not a word of criticism of Abbas.
The 700,000 voters who supported Kadima in the last election still think a deal with the Palestinians is an Israeli interest. They're just not sure Kadima is sufficiently responsible to bring it to fruition.
Friday, January 30, 2009
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