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Friday, October 12, 2007

Why Israel should not go to Annapolis

Last night, I saw a statement that infuriated me from 'right wing' politician traitor Avigdor Lieberman (pictured, top left). In the statement, Lieberman said that if Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert went to Annapolis and raised 'final status issues' (borders, Jerusalem, 'refugees' etc.) that he would not have a coalition on his return. The reason the statement infuriated me is that either Lieberman is conspiring with Olmert to allow Olmert to give the country away, or Lieberman has totally failed to learn the lessons of Taba nearly seven years ago. Because the lessons of Taba state that anything that Israel puts on the table remains on the table and becomes the starting point for the next round of negotiations Israeli concessions no matter how many years and how much violence has come since those concessions were placed on the table.

Allow me to explain.

The following came from my Matzav update that was sent to my mailing list on January 28, 2001 at 2:13 AM. It was the wee hours of Sunday morning and the Taba fiasco had broken up late Saturday night. It was nine days before (February 6) Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak in an election that changed Prime Ministers but the left the Knesset intact - something that cannot happen under current law unless the Knesset manages to find 61 MK's to vote for the same Prime Minister. Ehud Barak's 'government' had about 30 MK's in it at the time, which means three quarters of the Knesset was against going to Taba. Here's some of what I wrote that night in January 2001:
The 10:00 news in Israel tonight reported that the "Taba Talks" have ended with a joint communique which said that because of the time limitations they could not reach an agreement, but that they would be happy to start again from the point they left off with whatever Israeli government is in power at the time. [Emphasis added in 2007. CiJ] The communique reeked of Shlomo Ben Amam [2007 addition: For those who don't speak Hebrew, this nasty name bears explaining. Ben Ami - his real name - means "One of my people." Ben Amam means "One of their people. CiJ] - how the talks were serious, to the point, friendly and so on - the sort of long list of overly enthusiastic descriptive terms we are used to from Ben Amam.

The news followed with a long list of right wing politicians who demanded that Barak disclose what understandings were reached. I suspect that if he did, he would likely have to cede his position as Labor party nominee to Peres. Not that Peres is any better. [At the time, Barak's numbers were so bad that there was actually talk of replacing Barak with Peres on the ballot. It never happened. CiJ]

The problem is that the damage that Barak has done to any possibility of a future peace agreement during the period since Clinton's proposals in late December is simply incalculable. He has convinced the Palestinians that they can have everything while giving up nothing. Just as an example of this, Abu Alla said tonight that if Sharon is elected and wants to negotiate with us based on the "understandings" reached at Taba, that's fine, and if not, the Palestinians have diplomatic and "other" means of reaching their goals. Fifty Israelis can tell you about those "other" means R"L from six feet under.... [Emphasis added in 2007. CiJ]


I have the 11:00 news magazine on now, and am listening to a detailed report from Yoni Ben Menachem, who is a senior diplomatic correspondent for Israel Radio. I am hoping that Dr. Lerner will translate what Yoni said, but the summary is that although Shlomo Ben Amam said that we are closer to an agreement than ever, everyone else dismissed the entire talks and tonight's press conference as an election show. Minister of Tourism Amnon Lipkin Shahak (a former Chief of Staff) went home for Shabbos and did not bother to come back for today's negotiations (no, he didn't suddenly find religion AFAIK) or tonight's press conference. Ben Menachem went through a long list of issues which remain where they started (including land, where the Palestinians want pretty much every last bit of what we liberated in 1967). Abu Allah said that the major sticking point is the refugees - for the Palestinians, the "right of return" is a red line. The funniest moment of the night apparently occurred in a conversation in the hall between Israeli journalists and Muhamed Dahlan, the head of the "preventive security" for the Palestinians in Azza. They asked him what he thought of the negotiations, and he used a Hebrew slang which translates to "bull dung." 'Nuff said.

While I was posting the three Jerusalem Post articles, the New York Times web posted an article from tomorrow's edition that reports on the same events:
In their vague announcement, however, Israeli and Palestinian leaders wished to suggest that they were at the verge of a breakthrough that only this Israeli government could make good on. As such, the Palestinians, who are alarmed at the prospect of Mr. Sharon, gave Mr. Barak a last-minute hand.

Both sides said it was possible that Mr. Barak and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, would meet this week, and European officials have been shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians to engineer a summit meeting in Stockholm at midweek. [Israel Radio reported this as well. CiJ] [CiJ in 2007: Even looking back on this later it's unbelievable. A Prime Minister with a 'coalition' of about one quarter of the Knesset was going to conduct major international negotiations a week before an election in which the polls showed him getting creamed. And the source of his authority to act? CiJ]

In the first 48 hours of the negotiations in the Egyptian resort town of Taba, both delegations said they had never seen the other side so prepared to discuss a detailed "final status" arrangement, and so seemingly willing to contemplate fundamental compromises. Proposed Palestinian maps ceded major Jewish settlements to Israel.

Israeli negotiators were said to be wrestling with language that would for the first time officially acknowledge the suffering — and the right to compensation — of Palestinian refugees displaced from what is now Israel. [Emphasis added in 2007. CiJ] Both sides were reportedly examining leasing arrangements that would keep Israeli military posts at strategic points in the Jordan Valley.

"The atmosphere at the outset was extremely warm, and extremely serious, with real political will to strike a deal," said Miguel Moratinos, the European Union envoy to the Middle East, who monitored the talks closely from Taba.

But even then, Palestinians complained that the Israelis appeared internally divided about their own aims. Were they to seek a framework accord for an inclusive final- status agreement, or simply to pursue technical talks on a range of issues while building toward a statement of intent to continue talks after the elections? Some Israelis, too, said the mission was unclear.

It became clearer after the West Bank killing of two Israeli civilians on Tuesday, which brought the talks to a two-day suspension and broke the momentum. On Thursday, Israeli negotiators returned from meetings with Mr. Barak in Jerusalem with instructions to lower their sights.

Tempers frayed as Palestinians said the Israelis appeared to be toughening previous positions on refugees, security installations and other issues.

"Barak decided that making the concessions Israel would need to make would be suicidal politically," a Western diplomat said after speaking to both delegations.

End-of-the-week polls, in which Mr. Sharon maintained his commanding lead over Mr. Barak, showed that if the Taba talks resulted in an agreement, it would cost the prime minister support.

But negotiators were still striving to ensure that any future talks would pick up where they had left off. Key Israeli and Palestinians officials were trying to create a detailed, permanent record of the talks' progress, "a kind of formal or informal `deposit,' as was done in negotiations with Syria and elsewhere, for the collective memory of the two societies," [Emphasis added in 2007. CiJ] Mr. Moratinos said. [This is where Barak has done us real damage. CiJ in 2001]

But now, he said, the Israelis were accepting the basic geographical parameters of a settlement formula suggested by then-President Clinton, with Israel ceding around 95 percent of the West Bank. The Israelis even discussed what would be the politically charged idea of pulling out of the isolated settlements inside and around Hebron, including the large Qiryat Arba settlement.

Annexed to Israel under this plan would be three major border-area Jewish settlement blocs centered on Gush Etzion in the south, the Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim, and, deepest within Palestinian territory, the town of Ariel in the northern West Bank. Israel would partly compensate by carving off smaller pockets of land from its own sovereign territory and ceding it to the Palestinians. [As of yesterday, the Palestinians were insisting that Maale Adumim - and Givat Zev - be dismantled. CiJ 2001]

From a Palestinian perspective, the Israelis negotiating in Taba were almost their ideal interlocutors. All have a long personal history of involvement in official and informal discussions with the Palestinians in the last decade. Yossi Beilin, the minister of justice, and Mr. Ben-Ami are perhaps the strongest advocates of a peace settlement in the Labor Party leadership. Amnon Lipkin- Shahak, the tourism and transportation minister, was deeply involved in previous negotiations as the Israeli Army chief of staff. Yossi Sarid, the leader of the leftist Meretz faction, is an outspoken critic of West Bank settlements and proponent of Palestinian statehood.

But the "peace cabinet," as Mr. Barak calls his negotiating team, represents only a minority of Israel's Parliament, and according to opinion polls, a diminishing share of the public at large and well. [Emphasis added in 2007]
Just to give you a small sample of the level of ridiculousness that came out of Taba, here is one of Dr. Aaron Lerner's "THIS IS NOT A PARODY" pieces:
Beilin proposes asking refugees if they want to return or take compensation

Aaron Lerner Date: 26 January 2001


Israel Radio senior diplomatic correspondent Yoni Ben Menachem reported on the mid day news program that Minister of Justice Beilin proposed at the Taba talks today that all the Palestinian refugees around the world be surveyed, asking them if they want to return or take compensation.

The proposal was rejected by the Palestinian side. The Palestinians maintain that all refugees have the right to both return AND received compensation for the period that they were in "exile".

There is no indication in the report how Beilin's proposal to ask refugees what they want to do jibes with the official Israeli position that they cannot return to Israel.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-5480092
INTERNET ADDRESS: imra@netvision.net.il
pager 03-6750750 subscriber 4811
Website: http://www.imra.org.il
I want you all to understand this: If the Olmert- Barak (yes, that's the same Barak)- Livni government goes to Annapolis, regardless of how little support they have when they get there - let alone when they get back - everything they 'negotiate' there becomes the starting point for the 'next round.' If you think I'm exaggerating, have a look at this:
The Palestinian Authority would accept concessions made by Israel in the Taba discussions that took place six years ago, a senior Palestinian official told Israel Radio early Friday morning.

The source added that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that a draft summary made during the talks would be used as a basis for negotiations. [I assume that's the same summary referred to in the New York Times article from 2001 that I cited above. And note that it's 'a basis.' Israel's concessions are to start from there. CiJ]

No agreement was reached at the end of the six-day summit although both Palestinians and Israelis stated that it was the closest to reaching a final settlement than any previous peace negotiations.

At Taba both sides presented, for the first time, their own maps of the West Bank as a basis of discussion. Reportedly, the points of contention that ultimately proved insurmountable were the refugees and the final status of Jerusalem's holy sites.

Regarding Jerusalem, both sides reportedly agreed that the Arab neighborhoods would form a Palestinian capital. [That's the Ramon plan and I have been saying all along that despite the denials, Ramon is a stalking horse for Olmert, just like Olmert used to be for Sharon. CiJ]

The official, a member of a current team of Palestinian negotiators, told Israel Radio that although the differences between Olmert and Abbas were slim, the Israeli team was hesitant and cautious about arriving at an agreement.

Further, the official said that Israel must allow Palestinian refugees to "return to the Palestinian state" and claimed that if Israel were to allow a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, the PA would be willing to compromise on other issues. [Sure. Just open Pandora's box. CiJ]
Message to Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Eli Yishai (Shas): Withdraw from the government NOW so there is some chance of bringing it down and preventing Olmert from going to Annapolis. Othewise, YOU will be to blame for the horror to be brought on the Jewish people there.


At 12:24 PM, Blogger Mondo said...

Because the lessons of Taba state that anything that Israel puts on the table remains on the table and becomes the starting point for the next round of negotiations Israeli concessions no matter how many years and how much violence has come since those concessions were placed on the table.

Right on the money. Just why hasn't this lesson been learned? Israel's existence depends upon its citizens and leadership learning it.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Gershon said...

:CiJ in 2007: Even looking back on this later it's unbelievable. A Prime Minister with a 'coalition' of about one quarter of the Knesset was going to conduct major international negotiations a week before an election in which the polls showed him getting creamed:

Carl, you're kidding, right? It WAS unbelievable then, but it's deja vu all over again now-Olmert's ratings are as low as Barak's were, and he's just as determined to sell Israel out for his place in history.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Daniel434 said...

I'll make a concession, they can have my Baltimore Orioles. Seriously, take them, they suck.

There is a sea of Arab/Muslim Nations surrounding Israel and yet the arabs demand this tiny strip of land, but more so they demand the removal of the Jews from that land and the earth. Does not Israel realize this?



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