Waiting for the Palestinian Godot
Why are we repeatedly surprised every time Mahmoud Abbas fails to sign a peace agreement with Israel?…It’s a complicated game – squeezing more and more compromises out of the Israelis, without the Palestinians granting a single real, compromise of their own.
By Ari Shavit – April 24, 2014, Haaretz
There are some moments a journalist will never forget. In early 1997, Yossi Beilin decided to trust me and show me the document that proved that peace was within reach. The then-prominent and creative politician from the Labor movement opened up a safe, took out a stack of printed pages and laid them down on the table like a player with a winning poker hand.
Rumors were rife about the Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement, but only a few had the opportunity to see the document with their own eyes or hold it in their hands. I was one of those few. With mouth agape I read the comprehensive outline for peace that had been formulated 18 months earlier by two brilliant champions of peace — one, Israeli, and one, Palestinian. The document left nothing to chance: Mahmoud Abbas is ready to sign a permanent agreement. The refugee from Safed had overcome the ghosts of the past and the ideas of the past and was willing to build a joint Israeli-Palestinian future, based on coexistence. If we could only get out from under the Likud’s thumb, and get Benjamin Netanyahu out of office, he will join us, hand in hand, walking toward the two-state solution. Abbas is a serious partner for true peace, the one with whom we can make a historic breakthrough toward reconciliation.
We understood. We did what was necessary. In 1999, we ousted the Likud and Netanyahu. In 2000, we went to the peace summit at Camp David. Whoops, surprise: Abbas didn’t bring the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan to Camp David, or any other draft of a peace proposal. The opposite was true: He was one of the staunchest objectors, and his demand for a right of return prevented any progress.
But don’t believe we’d give up so quickly. During the fall of 2003, as the Geneva Accord was being formulated, it was clear to us that there were no more excuses, and that now, Abbas would sign the new peace agreement and adopt its principles. Whoops, surprise: Abu Mazen sent Yasser Abed Rabbo (a former Palestinian Authority minister) instead, while he stayed in his comfy Ramallah office. No signature, no accord.