An Interim Agreement

I didn’t think I would see the day when former Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz, now a member of the Kadima party, and that well-known champion of the Left, Yossie Beilin, would see eye to eye. However, both of them have come out publicly in the past few days in calling for an interim peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

While the Obama Administration has expressed the view that the current talks may well be the last opportunity to bring an end to the conflict, Israelis are generally less optimistic, and are reluctant to raise expectations about a process whose timing has more to do with America’s political timetable than with the realities of the Middle East.

President Mahmoud Abbas has been referred to as “a moderate” and “a genuine peace partner.” It is to be hoped that such epithets will turn out to be warranted and will be matched by concrete actions on his part. Yet he is reported as having told the Egyptian media that “(we) will not allow even one Israeli to live among us on Palestinian soil.”

Only time will tell whether such a remark is simply posturing and intended for internal consumption or whether it reflects his expectation that Palestine will indeed be Judenrein. (By contrast, there are over a million Arabs who are citizens of the State of Israel.)

The peace talks take place against the background of the naming of a square in Abbas’ capital city of Ramallah in memory of Dalal Mughrabi, who directed the coastal road massacre of 37 Israelis on a bus, and the President’s participation in a ceremony honouring Amin al-Hindi, one of the chief architects of the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

However, Mahmoud Abbas’ position is not simple. While, on the one hand, he has been pressured and cajoled into participating in peace talks, on the other hand, his political standing is weak on the West Bank, and he cannot allow himself to be seen as a stooge of the US Administration or a collaborator with the Zionist State.

Given that reality, he may just not be able to make the political concessions required to bring an end to the conflict as the Obama Administration would hope. In that sense, Mofaz’s and Beilin’s call for an interim agreement may well be more realistic. Such an accord would be preferable to our setting our sights too high and watching the talks break down in failure.

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