The Partner is the Excuse

The Partner is the Excuse

By Gilly Harpaz via Maariv News (translated by Geneva Initiative staff)

12.02.12
via Maariv News (translated by Geneva Initiative staff - to view article in Hebrew click here)
 
Spokesperson for the Geneva Initiative Israel responded to the recently proposed Palestinian unity government. "It's too early to predict whether the Palestinian reconciliation agreement is good or bad for Israel. But if we do not want to be viewed as rejecting peace ourselves, we must put it to the test of reality."
 
The recent reconciliation agreement signed between Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Mashaal, provided the Israeli government a good reason to continue the policy of deadlock in the peace process. Although the signing of the agreement only marks the beginning of negotiations regarding the composition of the unity government, Netanyahu hurried to make an announcement that Abu Mazen preferred an alliance with Hamas over peace with Israel and stated that "the two don't go together." On the one hand, Israelis have experienced from Hamas a not so distant past of terror, rockets and incitement. On the other hand, with the Shalit deal, a relative quiet in the Gaza strip, and declarations on accepting the '67 borders, show Hamas at times confusing and misleading.
 
There is little disputing the fact that as long as Hamas does not abandon the path of terror and does not recognize Israel, it is not a partner for negotiations. However the reconciliation agreement seeks to include Hamas in what is already considered a professional and technocratic government, which has little to do with negotiations. For Israelis, no one is aware or concerned with the Palestinian foreign minister, but many can name Saeb Erekat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator.
 
Israel prefers not to act
 
 
The Palestinian reconciliation agreement entails a real opportunity for the peace process and not just an excuse to elude. Having one Palestinian address is in the interest of Israel. Once there is one address, Israel can offer its own serious political plan that will challenge the direction of the unity leadership. If it chooses to pursue terrorism, then it will not be legitimate or relevant as a negotiation partner. But if they choose to accept the Quartet's conditions, it would be considered an achievement for Israel and could advance the peace process. Whether in the government there is a minister of agriculture that is identified with Hamas or not, the process could potentially move forward.
 
But Israel prefers to do - or should we say not to do - the opposite and rely on the Israeli society short term memory. In the recent past, the previous argument has been that as long as the Palestinians remain divided, the reason for Abbas not being a partner was that "he cannot deliver the goods for negotiations, he doesn't represent all Palestinians" (FM Lieberman in an interview with Army Radio, February 2010).
 
If both cases of division and unity Abbas is not perceived as a representative worthy of Palestinians for negotiations, it is unclear under what conditions he can win the coveted title of "partner". And we already set some conditions for him in the past: if he gave "seven days of quiet", if he withdrew the UN bid for recognition, if he gave up the right of return, or if he declared Israel as the eternal Jewish state.
 
Is there a real attempt at dialogue?
 
 
In light of these contradictory messages, it is impossible not to wonder if beyond the excuses, there Israel is an authentic partner that will to hold talks with the Palestinians leading ultimately to a political settlement, or if it is just a desire to put the blame on the other side and show the Palestinians as objectors to peace. At this stage, it's too early to predict whether a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinians is good or bad for Israel. But if we do not want to be seen as rejecting peace ourselves, we must place the reconciliation agreement within reality. In a good case scenario we can expose the real face of the Palestinians to the world and show off our righteousness. At best, we may find that there is actually someone to talk to.