International crossings and other fantasies

by Maskil on 27 Aug 2007

The headline reads: “Abbas denies West Bank-Gaza route included in land swap plan”

I’m no expert on politics, Israeli or otherwise, but like many people, I get nervous when I hear strenuous official denials on any subject. Once again, like many, I tend to suspect that these “leaks” and the corresponding denials are a deniable way of testing the reaction to an idea. Here’s a few of the things that trouble me about this particular item:

The office of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday rejected a Haaretz report that Israel had proposed a route between the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would be part of a land swap in a bilateral agreement.

Why is Abbas doing the denying rather than the appropriate Israeli spokesperson?

Israel proposed that safe passage for the Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza be included in an exchange of territory in the framework of the agreement of principles now being formulated ahead of the upcoming regional summit.

Under the terms of the plan, the Palestinians would receive control of the route, but Israel would maintain sovereignty and it will only begin to operate after the Palestinian Authority, under its present leadership, reasserts control over the Gaza Strip.

A system of international crossings such as this was first proposed as part of the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine. It died when the Arab side rejected the plan and the suggestion to revive it should be totally rejected instead of apparently being embraced by the Israeli side.

Jerusalem believes that the move will help Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad garner public support in Gaza, which will see the Hamas government as an obstacle in renewing communication with the West Bank.

The idea that we should be “helping”, bolstering, strengthening or making concessions to Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Fatah or the PA is one of the most pernicious and dangerous ideas ever to have gained mind-share in Israel. It goes back to the Oslo-era idea that Israel should be willing to pay a “price for peace” and needs to be stripped out of the language of discourse around the “peace process”. Both sides have as much to lose or gain from peace or the absence thereof, and if one party needs to be constantly propped up even before negotiations have begun, there is little chance that he will be able to fulfil his commitments.

My prediction? There is more chance of Hamas asserting control over the West Bank than of Abbas or the PA asserting control over Gaza.

Abbas denies West Bank-Gaza route included in land swap plan

Previous post:

Next post: