NEWS

  /  

May 25, 2006

Abbas recognizes Israel?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered a referendum, which could potentially make recognition of the state of Israel official, to take place unless Hamas accepts the two-state solution within 10 days. On a number of occasions, including in an old letter to the New York Sun, I have espoused my belief that a huge reason why there has never been lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is that while Israel has recognized the right of the Palestinians to a future state, the Palestinians have still not recognized the state of Israel as a permanent entity.Abbas is not an ideal partner for Israel to deal with, but this move shows more hope than there has been in a long time that Israel will have any partner at all. My prediction is that Hamas rejects the offer and the referendum goes ahead, albeit violently. As for the results of such a vote, I have really no idea. Closer to the election that installed Hamas in power, I would say that voters would be inclined to stay with the party line and vote nay. But Hamas has not united the Palestinians as many voters hoped, and has done little to raise the low standard of living in the West Bank and Gaza.In related news, interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Washington this week, and stated, rightfully so, that Israel "cannot wait for the Palestinians forever." He is, I believe, referring to the wait for a Palestinian government that will that truly desire peace with Israel still around. Abbas's proposed referendum is closer to delivering this than much has been in the recent past.So, best case (and probably unlikely) scenario: Hamas rejects the two-state solution, again. Abbas goes forward with the referendum, and just as Palestinian voters voiced their unhappiness with Palestinian Authority corruption by placing Hamas in power, they show that they are weary of violence and occupation, and vote with a very slim majority for the two-state solution. In response, Israel speeds up on its plans of unilateral withdrawal from the majority of the West Bank and establishes de facto borders near the pre-1967 borders. Israel keeps Jerusalem intact, and carves out areas with the largest Israeli settlements, handing the rest back to Palestinian control, echoing the Gaza withdrawal. Defined borders are much easier to patrol and shut down if necessary.