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In the Wall Street Journal (see below) Dennis Ross writes that Israel needs a Palestinian partner, and that Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei had better be that partner, because there will not be a chance for a third Palestinian Prime Minister.
Certainly, Israel needs a Palestinian partner to carry out the roadmap. But the Palestinians equally need an Israeli partner, and that partner is not in evidence. The failure of Abu Mazen and the chaos in the Palestinian Authority is not Israel's fault, but Israeli actions certainly didn't help. Ahmad Qurei or anyone else cannot survive without the support of the Palestinian people, and they cannot get support for moderate policies unless there is some sign that these policies will pay dividends in Israeli concessions.
During Mahmoud Abass's (Abu-Mazen's) term, Israel didn't budge on any issue of concern for Palestinians, even on issues of marginal strategic value or no value at all. At the end of the day, despite great fanfare, it seems that none of the illegal outposts were eliminated, and in fact Israel has recently granted infrastructure support to eight of them. Israel didn't make any real concessions on release of prisoners either. There are still lots of prisoners who are being held under "administrative arrest" with no charges brought against them, including kids who got jailed for throwing rocks. Work on the security fence/barrier/wall continued virtually unabated. Assassinations and incursions and closures likewise did not really abate, except that in a few cases permanent check-point barriers were replaced by mobile ones. There were some improvements in day to day life as closures were lifted and workers were allowed into Israel, though some of the changes were made after Abu-Mazen had resigned.
Abu Mazen was undoubtedly tripped up by his own Fatah movement at the instigation of Arafat, but he was vulnerable to those tactics precisely because he had nothing at all to show in the way of Israeli concessions. The kiss of death was delivered when he had to come away from Washington with no promise of concessions on the prisoner issue.
All of those concessions are tactical ones, not strategic changes. What Israel demands from any Palestinian PM is suppression of terror groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fateh Tanzim. This may require a civil war. Nobody in Palestine will support Abu Mazen or Abu Alah (Ahmed Qureih) in such a civil war unless it is clear that "sacrificing" the extremists will bring about a reasonable Israeli settlement. So far, Sharon's government seems more interested in settlements then it is in a settlement. There is no indication that Sharon is willing to give up Gaza, much less Ariel, and there is every indication that the Palestinian "state" that he envisions will consist of about 60% of the land of the West bank. No Palestinian PM can get behind that program or lead his people to support peace based on that program.
As for Qureih being the last chance of the Palestinians, that is far from certain. Both the USA and the EU have apparently invested too much in the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian authority, so it is unlikely that they will simply give up. If Ahmad Qureih is a last chance for the Palestinians, then what? Does anyone imagine that the current situation can be permanent? Not likely. Can Ariel Sharon or Dennis Ross wish very hard and make the Palestinian Authority go away? Not likely. So after the last chance, there will be another and another. There can be no progress, however, unless there are peace partners on both sides.
Wall Street Journal
November 5, 2003
Israel Needs a Palestinian Partner
By DENNIS ROSS
Rarely has the reality between Israelis and
Israel faces the unpleasant reality that there is not
More than anything else, Israel requires a Palestinian
Following Mr. Abbas' resignation and the suicide
Can Abu Ala succeed where Mahmoud Abbas failed? It
What Arafat most wants right now is a "two-way"
and yet , this possibility should not be dismissed.
Abu Ala must also be able to persuade Arafat that this
Mr. Ross, director of the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, was special Middle East coordinator
in the Clinton administration and director of the
Policy Planning staff during the first Bush
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