Tony Karon, one of the few journalists in the mainstream media who writes sensibly and intelligently about Palestine/Israel, has an interesting article on the “peace process” over at Time. According to Karon, Abbas believes that one of Netanyahu’s demands will be that the “… ‘framework agreement’ reached in the current process … [be] … implemented over a 20-year period [!]” Not surprisingly, Mahmoud Abbas, who is already reeling from Obama’s el foldo on the settlement freeze, is not amused by this ploy.
Rumors are that Abbas will make a declaration about the negotiations this week at the upcoming Arab Summit in Libya. Since the Palestinian president’s only source of authority derives from U.S. and European political, financial and military support, he rarely, if ever, contradicts American policy. Thus it is assumed that the only relevant independent statement he is able to make is to announce his own resignation, and mean it this time.
Karon uses the term “framework agreement” as synonymous with “peace treaty.” This is a mistake which is common among both journalists and politicians, one that is usually not discouraged by members of the president’s peace team. However, Special Envoy George Mitchell stated explicitly in a news conference at the start of the present round of talks in early September that a framework agreement is not a treaty. Actually, according to Mitchell, it is a long way between a framework agreement and anything meaningful. Answering a question from Major Garrett, Mitchell volunteered this startling definition:
And as I said – and I think this ought to be made clear because there has been a good bit of misunderstanding or not a full meeting of minds publicly regarding a framework agreement – a framework agreement is not an interim agreement. It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.
Did he say it is more detailed than a declaration of principles? What a meaningful comparison! That is what the Oslo Agreement was called and look how that worked out. Maybe someone should have yelled out at this point, “Shut off the peace processor, please.” Mitchell’s definition of a framework agreement is what is called in diplomacy, “creative ambiguity.” In other words, we can mean anything we say we mean, at any time, with no limits on how often what we say changes – so can the Israelis, so can the Palestinians. But in the end who cares what the Palestinians think?
Karon writes that
Still, it’s unlikely that any U.S. offer to Netanyahu on that issue [supporting an Israeli military presence in the future Palestinian state] was cleared with the Palestinians, who bring no leverage to the table except their ability to walk away [see Abbas’ possible resignation, above] and shatter the illusion of progress in a peace process that Obama has defined as a U.S. national security priority.
I wonder if Karon means that Obama has defined the peace process as a U.S. national security priority; or does he mean the President aspires to the illusion of a peace process. I personally believe that Dennis “Israel’s Lawyer” Ross has convinced the president that a negotiated two-state solution which creates a Bantustan for the Palestinians can be forced upon Abbas and Prime Minister Salam “America’s Man” Fayyad, and the Americans have the muscle to help the Palestinians enforce Obama’s Pax Americana. After all, why build an empire if you can’t use it?
The surprise is that even the idea of a Palestinian mini-state, with limited sovereignty and ability for self-defense, which has been the goal of many “enlightened” Israeli politicians from such divergent camps as Yossi Beilin and Ariel Sharon (in his final years in office), may now be actually off the table.
In other peace processor news coverage: When an Obama supporter like M.J. Rosenberg is critical of the President’s attempt at getting the Israelis and Palestinians into meaningful negotiations, you know that the process has gone seriously awry. M.J.’s calling Netanyahu’s treatment of our president “humiliating” will irritate and surprise the JStreeters who consider M.J. to be in their pro-Israel, peace, Obama corner.