This is a Guest Post from Shlomo Yosef
Since the events of the Gaza flotilla are subsiding the question now is where this leaves the peace process. President Abbas has just come back from Washington on a trip where he made some startling announcements cementing himself as a moderate looking for peace. He spoke about a Jewish claim to the land, Jewish rights in West Jerusalem and negotiating on the right of return.
Abbas also wrote an Op Ed to his own people speaking about his desire to reach a negotiated two state solution through negotiations but that this opportunity is eroded by the lack of will on the Israeli side.
In doing so Abbas is having a Barak moment from 2000. Regardless of the claims and counter claims of what happened in Camp David in 2000, any Israeli in the street will tell you that Barak offered the Palestinians everything and Arafat walked away. It seems now Abbas is offering Bibi everything and is seeing if he will walk away. If he does this will give the PA everything they need to move off a negotiated track and on to a path of a unilateral declaration of statehood. The Quartet have even worked in Fayyad’s timetable into their announcement from the 19th March.
A unilateral declaration that is based on 1967 lines that has East Jerusalem as the capital will then be able to be recognized by the entire international community. Yet rather than the two state solution ending the occupation and all claims between the sides, the conflict will continue even though the solution has been achieved. Negotiation is the only way to end the conflict; two states can come about either way.
At this point many readers will cry, ‘What about Gaza?!?’ Are we not heading to a three state rather than two state solution? The flotilla fiasco put Gaza not only back on the map but back into the process. The new debate about to be heard across the streets of Europe is about the Quartet principles.
Does Hamas have to renounce violence, accept Israel and accept previous deals? It seems that the Quartet are beginning to wobble on these and soon these principles will be rolled into just one, a renouncing of terrorism. Indeed this has seemed to scare the Conservative Friends of Israel into action with a letter in the Telegraph today.
Then national unity talks between Fatah and Hamas will get the blessing of the USA and elections can take place. What happens then is anyone’s guess yet from listening to what is happening on the street, Hamas could win the PLC and Fatah the Presidency. This is a very likely outcome if Marwan Barghouti is realised as part of a prisoner swap with Gilad Shalit.
Israel is at risk of being caught navel gazing with internal disputes over the Flotilla while Abbas takes on the mantle of peace maker. If Israel does not respond to his latest proclamations they risk being seen as the ones who walked away from the table. A two state solution that does not come from negotiations is a nightmare for Israel. They lose a say on borders and there is even a possibility that the Arab Peace Initiative could be taken off the table.
If Israel doesn’t respond to this hand from Abbas, even if cynically offered, they will lose all control of the two state solution. The door is still open, the Arab Peace Initiative still there – full normalisation with every member of the Arab league. If this sails by unanswered it is inconceivable it will ever come again.