[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
October 22, 2005
The demise of the two-state solution
Thursday's summit between President's Bush and Abbas did not achieve any new breakthrough in returning to the Road Map process.
President Bush reiterated that the quality of life of the Palestinian people should be improved, but retreated again on the timeline for the establishment of an independent sovereign contiguous viable Palestinian state from when he first announced his vision to have it by the end of 2005, and then by 2006, now in this summit no definite date was announced. This leads to the conclusion that the Bush Presidency deferred the establishment of an independent Palestinian state indefinitely.
By omitting a definite date for the creation of the two-state solution, President Bush emptied his vision of any substance. Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza can be termed as part of the demographic plan being implemented, and that the Palestinian state will be limited to the Gaza Strip. Also Sharon's plan for East Jerusalem and the West Bank becomes clearer. The separation wall is the unilateral borders of Israel, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) either accepts the fact, of a truncated cantonized sate without East Jerusalem, or Sharon can claim he has no Palestinian partner to his dictated unilateral plan. Thus Bush, like previous American presidents, backtracked on pursuing an effective policy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the ground this allows the further expansion of settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and for the next decade amounting to the continuation of an irreversible policy of occupation.
President Abbas got some sugar pills, the call on resolving the Rafah crossing point, a better quality of life, a call on Israel to stop settlement activity, and diplomatically avoided his earlier stand on Hamas participation in the legislative elections, which hours later was reiterated by the White House spokesperson.
Diplomatically, Abbas present tour of several Arab, European and the USA is a triumph to his clear cut policy of returning to the negotiation table of the Roadmap, but no more. The roadmap like its predecessor the Oslo agreement is relegated to the dustbin of the past.
It is apparent that until this moment President Abbas and his administration do not have the clout to enforce the rule of law, and that capacity building in this regard will take months if not years and that give the pretext for Israel to avoid any significant step forward.
The illegal outposts are under no pressure to be removed, and in the next couple of years they will grow in size to become formal settlements, thus allowing no room for the PA to negotiate a viable state, and Sharon planned or unplanned will adopt the formal Labour Party policies, which later the party rejected, the Jordanian option.
Thus for the next year until the November 2006, Knesset elections, Sharon will hardly consider even a second disengagement from the West Bank, the separation wall becomes an established fact, and in his third term, after the elections, he will most probably as there is no Palestinian leader, Abbas or others, willing to accept Sharon's dictation of a Palestinian State, will start advocating the Jordanian option as part of his vision to create a stable ME region. In effect this extended period would allow the creation on new facts on the ground, the expansion of Maale Adumim and its satellite settlements into Jerusalem and dooming forever the two-state solution.
Elections, are they going to take place?
With Israel insisting on preventing Islamic movements like Hamas from participating in the January 2006 elections, the lack of enthusiasm by Fatah activists to participate in selecting their candidates through the primaries, and because of no apparent significant gains for Palestinian positions from the Bush-Abbas summit, a call for the postponement of the elections is one way of easing the pressure on the Abbas administration. President Abbas will avoid a confrontation with Hamas, Israel and the USA, and the present PLC can be extended beyond the Israeli Knesset elections. This will allow President Abbas to buy time on all fronts, build up the capacity of his security apparatuses, continue his reform policies, allow the holding of long postponed Fatah convention, and concentrate on the only thing open to him, the development of the Palestinian economy.
The Qurei Cabinet
The demise of Ahmed Qurei was postponed until after the return of President Abbas from the meeting in Washington. The PLC accepted Abbas appeal to postpone the call for a no confidence vote up to them. Most probably, because Abbas has not digested the meaning of his meetings, he will as a first step work on forming a caretaker government of short duration to conduct the legislative elections.
As time grows closer to elections date, and with the present political stalemate, the call for postponing the elections will grow more significant, then Abbas might consider establishing a government of national unity. So far, the political horizons are clouded, but President Abbas has to learn to read between the lines.