I recently remembered some of the basics of a great negotiating course I took a number of years ago, and realized that all of the PA’s statements, ultimatums, and dictates about “pre-conditions” are, in fact, part of a negotiation.
While we typically tend to think of negotiations as sitting down at the table, developing an agenda for discussion, going through it point by point, and reaching a mutually acceptable compromise, that is not the only kind of negotiation that exists.
In the case of Abbas, Fayyad, and the PA, their stance on pre-conditions IS their opening position. They are stating quite clearly what they want, which IS negotiating. Their opening position is:
A state on the 1949 Armistice lines, including Jerusalem
No Jews in that state
Control of East Jerusalem for their capitol
A “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” to go “home” to what is now Israel
They are quite vocal about it, and have garnered significant support for their position.
What is missing is a clear counter proposal from Israel.
Israel has essentially taken the negotiating stance that they do not agree to the “pre-conditions”, and that everyone must sit down at the table, or they will not negotiate. This too is a negotiating tactic, but in this case, it is insufficient and ineffective.
Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to respond point by point to the PA’s “proposal” with his own counter proposal. This should include spelling out his STARTING position on borders, capitols, rights of returns, compensation for and rights of “refugees” (both Arab refugees and Jewish refugees from the Arab lands whom Israel absorbed years ago), security, Jewish residents of a Palestinian state, etc.
He needs to trumpet this position worldwide, just as the PA is doing, or risk further isolation for not participating in the process, which right now, is one of public negotiation rather than the “proper” and more “traditional” way negotiations are commonly managed.
The bottom line is that Israel needs to step up and clarify what territories they MUST keep (and frankly, they should demand a lot more than they’re willing to ultimately accept – the Arab world is known for its bargaining skills!), what territories they’re willing to give up, and provide a timetable by which these things must be decided.
There should be both a “carrot” and a “stick” attached – “if we sit down to negotiations by X date, we can finish by Y. If we cannot negotiate in a more “traditional” manner, and cannot reach agreement, we (Israel) will simply withdraw from those territories we know we won’t keep in a “real” negotiation, and we will annex the rest. After that, the PA can pound sand, so to speak, and it will be a border dispute between two sovereign nations.”
All the rest of it – the fact that Gaza and Westbank don’t talk to each other, their leaders are mortal enemies, etc. – is “noise”.
I am not saying that those things are not important, but let’s be realistic. A Palestinian state is NEVER going to agree to be demilitarized (as Netanyahu demanded), nor is it likely that Gaza and the West Bank are going to kiss and make up. It is more likely that they will eventually be two separate states in the end, whether that is formal or de-facto (as it is now).
It IS likely that the West Bank will be a danger to Israel once a Palestinian state is in existence, and Israel is going to have to deal with that by making it very clear that any incursions or attacks from foreign states (like Palestine) will be treated as acts of war and dealt with severely and swiftly.
I would love to see most of the West Bank absorbed into Jordan and Gaza absorbed into Egypt, and frankly, believe that is what should happen. But “should” doesn’t mean anything. Only the “facts on the ground” have meaning, and that’s not going to happen. Israel needs to be prepared for a Palestinian state, and needs to be ready to stand its ground in the formation of that state on boundaries and conditions that Israel can live with.
Unfortunately, regardless of the other conditions in the Middle East, the time is coming now, and Israel needs to get on board one way or another.