With the beginning of meetings in Washington, Mahmoud Abbas announced that in a future Palestinian state "we would not see the presence of a single Israeli -- civilian or soldier -- on our lands."
It is possible that the Palestinian Authority's president was referring to the land swap formula the negotiations are predicated upon. Within such a framework, Israel would retain large settlement blocs, and perhaps Abbas was hinting that he would not accept Israeli enclaves inside a sovereign Palestinian state. Surely the president, known for his Holocaust denial, meant to say, "Palestinian area completely free of Jews."
Also this week, right in the center of Israel at the junction along Highway 4 near Moshav Beit Hanania at the foot of the Carmel mountain range, stood Sammi el-Ali, the parliamentary assistant for MK Jamal Zahalka (National Democratic Assembly), leading a protest rally from the village of Jisr az-Zarqa while proudly waiving a Palestinian flag and demonstration signs.
Ali is a central and vociferous activist in the committee trying to expropriate agricultural lands from Beit Hanania for the Arba village's real estate ventures, which he claims are the result of demographic growth. The expropriation of this land -- which serves Ali and his people in their desire to raise apartment blocs for the village's Arab residents -- will cost the tax payer both in the loss of agricultural lands and in an investment of over half a billion shekels to build bypass roads and bridges.
The situation is Kafkaesque: While Israeli leaders are busy preparing a deal that will provide two states for tow peoples, Ali is protesting with the people of his village just a few meters away from the land he claims for himself and his friends. He is waging his battle in and against the Israeli homefront. With Palestinian flags at his back, he defiantly flashes the Arafat-like "V" sign (all of this is Palestine) toward the abashed gazes of Beit Hanania's residents, who shamefully swallow their outrage. Ali stands proud, in all his democratic glory, while voicing nationalistic Palestinian slogans, including a few "for the Arab lands of the Negev."
Something strange is happening in the Jewish state: Abbas is declaring a "territory free of Jews" but is demanding the release of Arab-Israeli murderers, those who have killed Jews in the name of the Palestinian problem but who were never under any form of Palestinian jurisdiction. Arab citizens of Israel, protesting with Palestinian flags in their hands, are demanding state lands that never belonged to them within the 1967 borders, and Arab MKs are telling their youth to refrain from performing any type of national service. On top of all this, Palestinian leaders continue to demand a "return" of refugees, to Israel of all places, which they call a state of Apartheid, oppression and occupation, and not to the Palestinian state they are seeking to establish.
The strangest phenomenon is that in Umm al-Fahm of all places, the hotbed of hatred toward the Jews and the state, residents are rejecting any proposal that includes "freeing themselves from the occupation" and transferring, with their lands and property, to the jurisdiction of an independent Palestinian state, the same one that will be "clean of Jews."
How pathetic it is to recall that every time peace efforts have failed and it was apparent that the Palestinians, despite the generous offers they received, were neither ready "nor able" to reach an agreement and recognize the state of Israel (fill in the blank here with the unmentionable). The shocked and dumbstruck Left would gather itself and again blame the Israeli negotiators for the failure.
A Palestinian friend used an Arab allegory to tell me bluntly, "Just as you came empty handed, so you will leave." In the jails for security prisoners, the murderers know they will go free. Those who planned and carried out terrorist attacks know in advance that if they are caught, they will be released and will return to their activities. The refugees are certain they will return to Palestine, in other words to Jaffa, Acre and Haifa. Hamas, the "rejectionist organizations" and the refugees continue to demand their "return" to Palestine.
According to my friend, most Palestinians are of the mind that Abbas barely represents himself, and any agreement he signs, much like the ancient Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, will be broken and the conflict will resume -- only this time under more optimal conditions.
As for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, my Palestinian friend left me with one more allegory, this time about a woman who "wistfully returns to her old habits." Because Mrs. Livni refuses to kill hope with the weapon of cynicism, we can only hope that the paper the deal is signed on is soft and gentle.