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Israel-Palestine: Final Status Negotiations Now!

By M.J. Rosenberg, The Israel Policy Forum, 20.07.07

Abbas, as head of the PLO, has the authority to negotiate a final status deal with Israel along the lines of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement almost achieved at Taba in 2001, or one based on the Clinton parameters or the Geneva Initiative.
That kind of deal is the only one that can work. Israel gets security and the Palestinians get their state in the West Bank and Gaza with an official presence in East Jerusalem and some solution to the refugee problem.
Getting there would not be easy. Israelis would have to give up the West Bank, including Hebron – holy to religious Jews. Palestinians would have to give up the idea of anything but a token "return" to pre-'67 Israel and recognize that the 22% of historic Palestine that is represented by the West Bank and Gaza is all they will ever get, (and that means taking on the militants, the way Arafat and Dahlan did then).
But Abbas, as head of the PLO, can probably deliver.
After all, he is no longer constrained by the presence of Hamas in his government. The down side is that he does not control Gaza. However, if Abbas can show Hamas supporters that he has achieved a final status agreement with Israel, he would likely gain full legitimacy with almost all Palestinians.
Of course, the peace deal with Israel would have to be put to a referendum (under international supervision) in the West Bank and Gaza and probably in the Palestinian diaspora as well. But the Hamas leadership in Gaza would be in the position of either accepting Israel and peace or being held responsible by Palestinians for losing their best chance of achieving statehood.
The bottom line is that flooding the West Bank with I-PODS and European cars will not save Abbas or even re-legitimize him in the eyes of his people.
Only one thing can do that. Successful final status negotiations now. And Abbas has the authority to do it. As for Ehud Olmert, even with single-digit popularity, his coalition is secure enough to do it too. Photo opportunities with Abbas during which Olmert re-states his opposition to real negotiations and offers token prisoner releases (250 out of 10,000) are less than worthless; they weaken Abbas and don’t help Olmert either.
We need to keep our eye on the ball. The name of the game is establishing a viable contiguous Palestinian state. In the words of General Oron to an audience of some 25 Members of Congress this week, "the most important thing you can do to help Israel achieve security is to work to establish a Palestinian state now in the West Bank and Gaza. Not just for them, although they need a state. But, for us. Without it, we will not long survive as a Jewish state."
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