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Abbas’ generous offer to Israel

The details of the unprecedented offer Israel got from the Palestinian leadership have been revealed – along with the Israeli response. Still, if you only listen to the Israeli media, you might think it was Abbas who got cold feet.

A new theory is taking shape in Israel these days: according to some heavyweight analysts and politicians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indeed went through a “personal transformation” in the months leading to the peace talks, and it was PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who got cold feet at the last moment, turning instead to unilateral moves like his request to join international treaties and reconciliation agreement with Hamas. Many of those parroting this line add to it a historical-psychological analysis of Abbas, who, in their minds, has become “a serial rejectionist.”

It is not just right-wing personalities like Naftali Bennett – who was hoping for the talks to fail in the first place – who promote this narrative. Even centrists like Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Haaretz’s Ari Shavit (who was and has remained Netanyahu’s informal spokesperson) and journalists Ben Dror Yemini, Shalom Yerushalmi and Nahum Barnea. The latter can’t be suspected of supporting Netanyahu.

This is deception, pure and simple. The “historical” claims about Abbas have already already been refuted by Channel 10’s Raviv Druker on his blog (English translation here), but it is vital that the Israeli public is made aware of the distance the Palestinian Authority’s leadership has traveled, and to judge his own government’s actions accordingly.

>Read +972’s full coverage of the peace process

One doesn’t need to look very far to understand what really happened. An American source – rumors in Israel claim it is special envoy Martin Indyk – spoke to Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea himself and told him exactly to what did Abbas agreed. These are not Palestinian claims but the words of the peace American envoy, to an Israeli journalist who was suspicious of Abbas’ behavior to begin with. In other words, putting aside a transcript of the talks or other formal papers, we will not hear a more credible version.

These concessions offered by Abbas go beyond the known formula of two independent states on the 1967 borders (the Green Line):

– The Palestinian state would be demilitarized. (This was a key demand brought up by Netanyahu in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech.)

– A new border would leave 80 percent (!) of the settlers under Israeli sovereignty.

– A five-year-long Israeli presence in the strategic “security zones” – mostly the Jordan Valley – that would be replaced by American forces. (This means Abbas actually offered to make the Palestinian state an enclave inside Israel for a very long period of time.)

– All Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would become part of Israel. (In other words, recognition of Israel’s annexation of certain parts of the city.)

– A symbolic return of refugees, which would depend on Israeli authorization. “Israel will not be flooded with refugees,” Abbas said during the negotiations, according to the American source.

You can read the full interview here, or excerpts with Larry Derfner’s comments here.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, June 29, 2013. (Photo by State Dept.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, June 29, 2013. (Photo by State Dept.)

It’s worth mentioning that according to the Palestinian narrative, which most of the world finds reasonable, the major Palestinian concession was their willingness to recognize an Israeli state on 78 percent of historic Palestine. This step, taken by Arafat, was seen by many as recognition of past mistakes by the Palestinians, and pragmatically necessary for finding an urgent solution to the Palestinian issue. Israel, for its part, never recognized a Palestinian state or the validity of Palestinian claims to a single inch of the land.

Yet even the claim that the Palestinians have been unwilling to show flexibility since their historic recognition of Israel – or that demands are only brought before the Israeli side – is simply false. In reality, the exact opposite has happened. In the 20 years that have passed since Oslo, the Palestinians have come a long way toward Israel’s positions, and showed a great deal of understanding about the political — and even the psychological — needs of the Israeli leadership. Again, this was a recognition of their own relative weakness and of the urgency they felt, which was never shared by successive Israeli leaderships.

Abbas’ offers to Netanyahu were based on previous ideas like the Clinton Parameters and the informal Geneva Accord. Yet the fact that they were raised in a formal way, in final-status negotiations by the leader of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, is extremely meaningful. Even more meaningful is the fact that Hamas was willing to recognize and join a leadership that made such offers.

On the other side is an Israeli government that feels it is powerful enough not to be held accountable to anything or anyone, and an indifferent Israeli public. Both are constantly searching for evidence of “Palestinian rejectionism” and when that is not found, they simply make things up. The facts that Abbas was willing to recognize Israel — which defines itself as a Jewish State – rather than “Israel as a Jewish state,” or that he still insists on a symbolic return (which is mostly a political effort to save face on this issue), are all portrayed by politicians and pundits alike as the smoking gun that proves he is a pathological rejectionist.

Did Netanyahu ever come close to endorsing the Geneva Plan or the Clinton Parameters? Did he bother to outline his own border plan? Did he ever make a gesture on the narrative level like Abbas’ statement on the Holocaust? Did his “transformation” bring him any closer to the minimum a two-state solution requires? Did – in more than five years – he ever do anything beyond reversible “gestures” like a (partial) settlement freeze or the (partial) release of veteran prisoners, which wasn’t even completed? All these questions have the same answer.

In fact, Abbas went so far that serious forces in Palestinian society claim such an agreement would have never been accepted by the Palestinian people, and if it was, it would have been impossible to implement. That may be true, but this is an issue for an internal Palestinian conversation. The point of the matter is that the Jewish public cannot continue deceiving itself, and it cannot go on permitting its own leaders’ and journalist’s deceptions.

If you add the Arab Peace Initiative to Abbas’ offer, one must conclude that Israel has never before faced such an opportunity to achieve regional and international legitimacy for its military and political achievements in the last century.

The Israeli leadership chose to pass on it all, and the Israeli public has little problem with that.

Originally posted in Hebrew on Local Call. Update: Since I wrote this post, President Peres spoke about the way Netanyahu torpedoed his own breakthrough with the Palestinians, some three years ago. By now, one has gotten used to such stories.

U.S. post-mortem on peace talks: Israel killed them
Israel suspends talks, and Washington’s hypocrisy on Hamas
If you believe in peace, the Fatah-Hamas deal is good news

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    1. Kolumn9

      Indeed Abbad is willing to make many compromises, except the ones that actually matter.

      1) He refuses to recognize/accept Israel as a Jewish State, suggesting he is planning to continue the conflict until this changes and reserving legitimacy for such a struggle later.

      2) He refuses to cancel his demand for flooding Israel with Arabs, suggesting that as the method for undermining Israel as a Jewish State. I have yet to see the Palestinians accept any limitations on overall numbers, only the willingness to space the influx out while leaving it as an open sore to bludgeon Israel with.

      3) He rejects that an agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state would constitute an end to claims and an end to conflict. Combined with the previous two rejections that suggests that what Abbas is interested in is to make the Palestinians stronger while making Israel more vulnerable in the next round of hostilities.

      This is not a sound basis on which Israel can compromise its security and in return Israel can expect more conflict. No end to the conflict and a terror base next to the airport, overlooking Tel Aviv and next door in Jerusalem protected by Palestinian security forces. Great deal indeed. Terrorist groups that attack Israel in the name of flooding Israel with Arabs would still be treated as heroes by Abbas and they would have a lot more room to operate in the outcome Abbas wants.

      We’ll wait for a leadership to arise among the Palestinians that isn’t obviously still trying to undo Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Steve

        THANK YOU!!!

        Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      It’s time for Ha’aretz to show Shavit the door, not before giving him enough bus fare to Israel Hayom’s offices.

      It’s also time for Barack Obama to cut Israel loose and let it go its own way. That means no more $3B/annum, weapons and UNSC vetos. But at least Netanyahu will then have what he’s always wanted – the chance to publicly call Obama a Jew-hater.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rab


      Your bullet points point to a flaw in (presumably) Indyk’s telling of the story and something you might wish to investigate further.

      The concessions you list are all concessions that were already present in 2000/2001 at Taba and in Olmert’s offer. They were, in theory, accepted by Abbas already back then, but the deals didn’t move forward because of other factors.

      In fact, the concessions described by Indyk are less than what Olmert offered in 2008 to Abbas. So if he said no to Olmert (or walked away) then why say yes now when he’s feeling much more confident?

      Also, an inspection of the details shows there is little new under the sun. For example, the 80% of settlers is precisely the same number Barak spoke of because when Israel keeps the 5% of Judea and Samaria that it has been demanding in all of these offers, that land encompasses 80% of the settlers.

      If you notice, however, what (presumably) Indyk doesn’t say is that Abbas accepted the 5% land deal. That’s because, presumably, he thinks he can find the 80,000 “settlers” (most of them are in Israel) in the 2% the Palestinians have always agreed to concede.

      There are three key concessions that are missing in Indyk’s story and a third that is very telling.

      The first is, what language the Palestinians demand for dealing with the refugee issue. Are they signing off on “symbolic” or are they saying “symbolic but under 194.” This is meaningful because you can’t have a vague, diplomatic stance here.

      The second issue is how the Palestinians agree to deal with the Western Wall, tunnels and Haram al Sharif. This was a problem in 2001, 2008 and remains one now where they refused sovereignty to Israel (Clinton’s telling of this differs from Ben Ami’s and Moratinos).

      The third issue is that there is no concession to end the conflict. Abbas explicitly told Obama he wouldn’t agree to this language.

      Fourth, is the “Jewish state” issue. Although Peres says Abbas agreed to this language, all public statements from the Palestinians to date reject this language. In fact, their public statements contradict Indyk’s general thesis about any compromise.

      Finally, there’s the source problem. Indyk is not a friend of Israel, he’s a severe critic. He has spoken harshly about Israel in general and about Netanyahu and his governments in particular. In 2008, Indyk’s the one who invented the excuse (in the form of a leak by the way) to the world that Abbas had to say no to Olmert because Livni told him to do so due to Olmert’s supposed weakness. Indyk walked back his accusations a couple of weeks later but the damage was done and continues to this day.

      And then there’s this administration which has been hostile to Netanyahu since day one. It is safe to say that Obama comes from a school of thought that is probably aligned with much of the far left around the world when it comes to Israel. What we are witnessing here is a game intended to apply the type of pressure the administration feels will force Netahyahu and Israel into concessions: boycott.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        “Symbolic” right of return should be taken to mean exactly what it means in the article: no Palestinian refugees will return to Israel, unless the Israeli government approves of it.

        Abbas has gone as far as to take the holiest sacrament of the Pro-Palestinian cause, there and abroad (Right of Return), and essentially castrate it. Weimar Germany got a better deal from the Treaty of Versailles than any future Palestine would have gotten from these concessions; at least they weren’t TOTALLY demilitarized (as Abbas has agreed to render a future Palestine). The Israeli response? To be suspicious, to see conspiracies where none probably exist, to hem and haw over semantics and land percentages. At this rate, I doubt future talks will go anywhere, unless Abbas is spanked publicly in the streets of Tel Aviv, and agrees to make Hebrew a required language at all higher institutes of learning in Palestine.


        Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            It’s a neat little political trick called “not fulfilling one’s promises to the electorate.” Rather like how a certain American president promised to consider single-payer healthcare, while delivering the filthy compromise we now know as the Affordable Care Act.

            Of course, to the Israeli media and government, EVERY “threat” or “statement” made by prominent Arab figures will inevitably be carried out or made good on one hundred percent, with no margin for empty rhetoric or chest-beating. Do you really think Abbas has come this far, and would have made such an epic compromise (symbolic RoR, no refugees coming back to Israel without Israeli government approval), to have been planning to just “change his mind?” And lose what international goodwill he’s built up so far?

            Reply to Comment
    4. mcohen


      you are 100% correct.the latest peace process was basically laying the ground work for sanctions.the pressure will start to build.in my mind the next step will be the build of arab forces that are us supported and anti israel.that is the real endgame in syria.removal of assad by american supported forces that will allow america to control military pressure on israel,as the next step.sanctions will fail without military pressure as it is this pressur that causes the economy to bled while facing sanctions at the same time.by military pressure i mean a low intensity conventional type warfare similar to the one used against south africa.

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        Very close,Mcohen.

        But this general plan is a lot older than the start of the latest peace process.

        I feel TPTB in Israel are aware of this intended scenario since june 2012.

        While all eyes are off Syria,that’s where you should look.

        There, and Saudi Arabia.

        Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Possibly. Then again, possibly not.

        Either way, it is just another doomed dream for those who hope to see Israel humiliated and trampled. Nothing will come of it.

        Israel is destined to continue to go from strength to strength and Israel’s haters will just have to put up with having to continue to weep in disappointment.

        עם ישראל חי

        Reply to Comment
    5. Tzutzik

      “In fact, Abbas went so far that serious forces in Palestinian society claim such an agreement would have never been accepted by the Palestinian people, and if it was, it would have been impossible to implement. That may be true, but this is an issue for an internal Palestinian conversation.”

      Not quite!

      Kudos to you Noam for at least bringing this point up. That such agreements would not have been accepted by Palestinian society.

      But then you can’t just dismiss this fact. After all, wasn’t that the excuse that those on your side of politics gave to let Abbas off the hook when Olmert gave HIS generous offer and Abbas walked away? Didn’t you guys say that Olmert had no political credibility left by then because he was at the end of his term?

      It would be nice if commentators on both sides would be at least willing to apply the same standards to both sides in their analysis. Otherwise they come across as ‘Israelisalwayswrongnomatterwhat’ or ‘Israelisalwaysrightnomatterwhat’ types. Neither is helpful. Both are known as partisan politics rather than cool sober political analysis.

      Reply to Comment
    6. I’m a bit unclear on the meaning of Abbas’s alleged offer. Don’t the Palestinian people get any say? don’t they (somehow) get a ratifying voice? And if Abbas “gives away the farm”, do the people who’ve suffered for so long get no chance to say no?

      Someone (Arafat?) used to say that the Palestinians had made all the concessions they would make: they’d acceptedd the 22% and given Israel 78%.

      Will the territorial percentages be the same, even if a few exchanges? so that, form Israel’s POV, Israel will get a bit bigger (than 1966) and also a bit smaller?

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Yes the Palestinian Arabs do have a say. And a lot more than Abbas or any other leader of theirs. In fact, if it would be up to me, I would accept any Arab offer (assuming it would be satisfactory to us) ONLY if it would be ratified in a national referendum of Palestinian Arabs. Otherwise, following a military putsch, the next Palestinian Arab leader would just renege on any committments after Israel would give up syrategic assets (lands).

        As for the so called Arab compromise by Palestinian Arabs that they gave up “78%” of historic Palestine, did you know that prior to 1929, Jordan was known as Eastern Palestine? And did you also know that Jordan tepresents 80% of historic Palestine?

        Reply to Comment
    7. Average American

      No to American forces in the Jordan Valley. No to American forces in Syria. You guys figure it out with your own young men and women at risk of death or dismemberment, with your own military equipment, with your own money. We did it for you once in Iraq, under what turned out to be untrue claims from Israel. Never again.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        “No to American forces in the Jordan Valley. No to American forces in Syria. You guys figure it out with your own young men and women at risk of death or dismemberment”

        It isn’t often that I agree with you Average. But on this we agree 100%.

        And for the record, Netanyahu also agrees with us. He said he doesn’t want American forces to be involved. He wants Israelis to ensure the safety of Israelis. That’s the way it SHOULD be too. We don’t want another Beirut type mass murder by a suicide truck bomber of American marines and French soldiers. After which they got out and left a vacuum in their wake. No, it was not good for either us, the Americans or the French. It was only good for Iran and the terrorists.

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          And you fleeing Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 with your tails between your legs – was that good for you?

          What’s needed for the liberated West Bank is an international peace-keeping force made up of NATO forces, as well as non-NATO forces like Turkey.

          Of course, the Palestinian demand that not a single IDF soldier remain on Palestinian land is 100% reasonable.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You expose the ignorance your views are built on.

            “What’s needed for the liberated West Bank is an international peace-keeping force made up of NATO forces, as well as non-NATO forces like Turkey.”

            Turkey is part of NATO.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            Indeed, my mistake. I was thinking of countries like Egypt and Jordan.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “And you fleeing Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005 with your tails between your legs – was that good for you?”

            Fleeing? You fool. Our business was finished there years before. We should not have stayed in the first place. Moreover, we proved to ourselves and to the world that even if Israel withdraws, it won’t change the intentions of the Arabs to try and destroy us.

            As far as Hezbollah’s much lauded victory in 2006, that you guys keep on pounding your chests about. Pray for them. Too many more “victories” like that and Lebanon will be just history.

            Look up “Pyrrhic victory” you little hater.

            Reply to Comment