At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him to renew negotiations. But what would he like to negotiate about? Would he like to propose another interim agreement? Does he think that we should negotiate the permanent-status agreement on borders, Jerusalem, refugees? Is the Palestinian state he spoke about having consensus in Israel the same state the Palestinians want?
What is it exactly that he would like to discuss with Abbas? Would he like to propose that the Palestinian leadership ask US President Barack Obama to stop pressuring Israel on the issue of a settlement freeze? Would he like to ask him if he would welcome continued Israeli control of the external borders of the future state of Palestine? Would he like to ask him if it is all right that the City of David amusement park surrounding the Old City be built on top of homes in Silwan that are slated for demolition?
Or that the Palestinians should welcome the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance on top of Muslim graves in Jerusalem?
Does his agenda also include the construction of homes, hotels and roads in Area E1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim? Of course, why shouldn’t he ask Abbas to grant a green light for this too – the US has been pressuring Israel on this issue as well. Why not ask Abbas to tell Hillary Clinton that the Palestinians have no problem with splitting the West Bank in two?
Of course he could convince him that the really massive building in the settlements is in Modi’in Illit and Betar Illit, where only haredim are settling. They are not ideological settlers. They keep to themselves and besides, moving them to the West Bank means they are moving out of Jerusalem.
Maybe Abbas will understand and sympathize because their natural growth is as high as the Palestinians – and we really do need to keep a demographic balance between the two sides.
Maybe he could explain to Abbas that building more homes for Jews in the West Bank is good for the Palestinians because it creates so many jobs in construction? Isn’t it the dream of every Palestinian youngster to lay floor tiles in Jewish homes? Isn’t this part of the vision of economic peace? When Palestinians have jobs, they will be too busy to think about making trouble, and if they have really hard jobs with lots of physical labor, they’ll be too tired to make bombs. So maybe Abbas will understand that building Jewish homes in settlements is really good for the Palestinians?
Maybe he can explain why even after vacating four settlements in the Jenin area at the time of the Gaza disengagement, Israel is still in possession of those settlements. Maybe Abbas will understand why they are closed military areas. Maybe he will understand why they cannot be turned over to the PA.
Or perhaps Abbas will understand why the Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem closed by Israel – such as the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce – cannot be reopened, even though the Road Map requires this.
Perhaps he can convince Abbas that the closing of a poetry festival in east Jerusalem under the banner of “Jerusalem – Capital of Arab Culture” was a state security directive? He will surely understand how cultural events such as a film festival or a folklore dance performance endanger the security of the Jewish people.
Perhaps he can convince Abbas to recognize all of Jerusalem as the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Why shouldn’t he understand that Israel simply cannot imagine its eternal capital without Jebl Mukaber and Beit Hanina being under its eternal sovereignty. He will surely recognize that Jerusalem has only been capital to the Jewish people and that it is the Jewish people’s most holy site. Of course he will be willing to renounce all of the previous claims of the Palestinian people for a capital in east Jerusalem.
PERHAPS YOU can present a much less controversial subject to begin with. Maybe Abbas will understand why Israel has to have full control over all the water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Why shouldn’t Abbas understand that we in Israel are facing a severe water shortage and that Israelis have to have first priority on the use of that water. Doesn’t Israel use the water more efficiently than anyone else? Palestinians would only waste the water and they don’t know how to manage it as professionally as Israel does. The head of our water authority is a professor while the head of the Palestinian water authority is only a doctor.
Perhaps he should invite Avigdor Lieberman to come with him to meet Abbas. With his strong convictions he could surely convince Abbas that Umm el-Fahm and other border communities could be a great asset to the Palestinian state, and that he should convince those Israeli Arabs to give up their citizenship. They don’t really need to be Israeli anyway.
Perhaps he would like to ask Abbas to support another “operation” into Gaza to finally do away with Hamas. Didn’t he support Cast Lead? After that operation the international community will surely give lots of money to rebuild Gaza, and all of that money will be under the control of Abbas. Surely he’ll jump at that opportunity.
Maybe he can ask Abbas to convince Bashar Assad to let Israel keep the Golan Heights and in exchange it will offer Syria full peace. Maybe he can get Abbas to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to make peace without Israel withdrawing from the occupied territories. Surely King Abdullah would jump at the opportunity – he is only waiting for Abbas to ask him.
And Obama really likes the idea of regional peace. Abbas could even receive another invitation to the White House.
Yes Netanyahu, by all means invite Abbas to meet with you. I am quite sure that this small sample of a possible agenda is much more modest than any your own creative imagination can come up with.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.