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Abbas Opposes Land-Swap: Does He Want Peace?

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he opposes Israel’s proposal to give up areas of Israeli land heavily populated by Israeli Arabs, such as the region around Umm al-Fahm, for the new Palestinian state, in order to keep Israel’s settlement blocs in the West Bank while still returning 100% of the land taken in the 1967 war. I just can’t believe it, it harks back to the Palestinian pig-headed stick-to-your-gunnery that is usual displayed so well by Hamas and would be so better coming from people who actually had anything to lose.

The Palestinian people want peace, and as it has widely been agreed for decades the best chance of that comes from a two-state solution where Israel returns the land it took in 1967. For Abbas now to say he opposes an Israeli offer to do just that makes me ask, and from what I know of the situation, the Palestinian people will also be wondering: does Abbas want peace?

The proposal Abbas was talking about was formulated by Shimon Peres while he was still Israel’s vice-premier. The proposal was brought to light in a Haaretz article. Although I am bemused that Abbas has come out opposing the proposal, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has denied the existence of such a document anyway.

Returning the land taken in 1967 including East Jerusalem to form a Palestinian state, is one of the set-in-stone Palestinian demands for any peace deal, right of return for all refugees is another. But the main thing Palestinians want is an end to the occupation, removal of checkpoints, life-restricting Israeli security measures, and control over their own lives.

A land swap has long been thought necessary to allow Israel to return the land it took in 1967, because of the settlements it has built on the occupied land. If this document does exist, then this being the first time Israel has actually stated what land it wishes to swap is for me a big step. Another big step is Israel putting on paper a proposal to return 100% of the land taken in 1967. For Abbas to oppose such a huge step towards a massive concession from Israel, makes me wonder for the first time if those people are right, who say the Palestinians are as much an obstacle to peace as Israel. But let’s remember this is not the Palestinian people, it is a Palestinian leader long-known for not putting his people first.

Many people in the analytical community, the major players in the international and Israeli political scenes are currently — on paper at least — are touting that peace is closer than it has been for years. Shimon Peres stated Aug. 26 his belief that peace could be agreed before the international summit later this year.

UN special advisor for the Middle East Michael Williams, who is set to become Britain’s Middle East representative next month, said that Israel hasn’t done enough to strengthen the moderate Abbas, which suggests he will follow the same old policy. That is the very policy that I believe still leaves peace a long way off; strengthening Abbas, while isolating and excluding Hamas from negotiations. This leaves the peace process open to being de-railed by the militant group staging a campaign of terror attacks. There is already talk of Hamas leaders in Damascus calling on Hamas militants in the West Bank to launch a massive suicide attack in Israel to torpedo chances of a deal between Israel and Fatah.

There is also the possibility that any agreements will be rejected by the Palestinian people as a whole who doubt Abbas’ credibility and voted for a Hamas government for that reason. That of course all assumes Abbas can reach agreement with Israel. If Abbas is going to oppose every attempt Israel makes to compromise then he is not as moderate as everyone seems to think, nor is he likely to be the best person to achieve a Palestinian state through negotiations.

Michael Williams also said the situation is better than it has been for seven years, so as he and many other prominent people are hopeful that peace is closer than it has been for years, I will keep an open mind and see how things pan out. But until the top tier of world powers realize that all Palestinian groups and people must be behind a deal in order to offer Israel any real chance of security; a must for any deal, I just don’t hold out much hope.

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About Liam Bailey

  • Tom Moselle

    I am sorry but I must not have read your article correctly. Did you miss the very point of rejection of the land swap deal, the continued existence of ILLEGAL settlements in the West Bank? How could anyone accept such a deal. How can anyone even offer such a proposition? Saying in one breath that you will give back ALL the land occupied in the ’67 war and then in the very next breath excluding the heart of the would be Palestinian state shows the deception and manipulation evidenced in Israeli policy. Hundreds of settlements where allowed to be built by the Israeli government in the face of UN resolutions and international objections. Despite those objections and illegality thousands of Israelis are now within the area to be placed under Palestinian control. Does anyone really think that will bring peace? Those settlers are amongst some of the most radical zionist in all of Israel. There will be no peace or the majority of the land mass in the West Bank will be ceded to Israel for administration. Such a “deal” is no deal at all. Even one as new to this situation as I am can see that. This amounts to a kidnapper/rapist returning his victim but saying to the husband, “you can have your wife back but I get to sleep in her bed”! Come on Liam, get real!

  • http://warpages-leejay.blogspot.com Liam Bailey

    The way I see it is, the settlements are built, and no Israeli government can ever tear them down, unless forced to do so by the UN going to war with them and winning, which is unlikely.

    My point is whats done is done, the Palestinians are suffering everyday with no end in sight. If the Palestinians won’t accept a state unless the settlements are pulled down and the full West Bank is part of it then they might be waiting forever. There needs to be compromise on both sides for a lasting peace.

  • moonraven

    The What’s Done Is Done argument simply is bullshit.

    Hitler invaded the former Czechoslovakia, for example. Why is it no longer part of the Third Reich.

    What’s done is done, my ass. I thought you were getting a little more in tune with reality, Liam–and now you’ve gone and convinced me that you should be sent to bed without your porridge.

    What’s done is done. You will never get any respect from me.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Tom, you are new to this issue. Hamas still refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist. The PLO National Covenant calls for the destruction of Israel even though Arafat promised for hears he’d take it out. The Syrians arm Hezbollah to attack Israel and the Iranians arm Hamas. We’re talking about one somewhat fractured democracy surrounded by vicious Saddam-type dictators who have been dedicated to Israel’s destruction since 1948.

    Also remember that from 1948 to 1967, Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordon the West Bank. At any time they could have created a Palestinian state, but preferred to keep the people in camps and stir up their anti-Israeli sentiment.

    And as for the settlements being illegal, when did the world develop such a profound moral compass. For thousands of years, including today, countries take land from other countries in war. Why is that only the Jews aren’t allowed to? (And, by the way, check out a map that shows the pre-67 borders. It will show a country with absolutely no chance of defending itself.

    And Moonraven, do me a favor and stick a sock in your thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. Your knowledge of history is as pathetic as your knowledge of English.

    But we’ll always have…

    In Jameson Veritas