Monday, October 11, 2010

PA Rejects Settlement Freeze Deal

The Jerusalem Post reports that both Saeb Erkat and Mahmoud Abbas have rejected an Israeli proposal which would have extended the settlement freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home. Erkat called the proposal "racist" and an "Israeli game", while Abbas' spokesperson was slightly more measured, saying that "The topic of the Jewishness of the state is not connected at all to the issue [of the building freeze]."

My main concern is that talks continue, so I'm consequently unhappy at Palestinian rejection here. Obviously, the question of recognition is highly symbolic -- but it is only symbolic, and it hardly strikes me as an unfair trade for tangible concessions (which are also, to be sure, highly symbolic in addition to their concrete weight). On the other hand, I doubt that the ultimate resolution of the conflict is going to hinge on the precise words Palestinians use to characterize the Israeli state.

In an ideal world, we would say Israel should simply freeze settlement development because it is the right and intelligent thing to do. In an ideal world, the two states for two peoples formulation would not be controversial. Alas, it's not the ideal world. The one thing I can say is that Israel appears willing to talk without any preconditions -- it merely is saying that, if we are going to play the precondition "game", the path has to go both ways.


joe said...

I don't want to start an argument (and have nothing else to say, really) but I'm genuinely curious: How long an extension are we talking here? Because recognition carries a certain implied permanence.

N. Friedman said...


That is a fair question. However, it is to be noted that, unless the Palestinian Arabs come to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish national movement, there will never be peace, no matter what documents are signed. So, I think that Netanyahu is doing the right thing, at least on this issue.

As for agreeing to freeze the building of settlements, my view remains that, apart from those settlements which all involved know or ought to know will remain in Israel's hands, Israel should not build. However, in those places that will remain part of Israel, I cannot imagine why the Israelis ought place a question mark over such land. That strikes me as a terrible negotiation strategy and politically stupid to boot. So, to that extent, I disagree with David's approach.

I also think that, contrary to what some would assert, recognizing the legitimacy of the Jewish National movement is not a minor point. It is the central issue in the dispute, the rejection of that proposition - which speaks volumes about the Palestinian National movement - telling us why there will be no peace for Israel, no matter what piece of paper it and Palestinian Arabs sign.