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The Palestinian Track that Olmert Ignores

In his recent speech before the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, inaugurating its winter session, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert focused on issues that observers and international news agencies considered second to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Israeli-Lebanese relations – though significant and engraved in the Israeli consciousness as a result of this summer ‘s destructive war against Hizbullah – should not take the first priority from the peace settlement which has been frozen all through the last six years. His "innovative" proposals should have been directed at promoting the peace process rather than heaping new ideas and initiatives at the feet of the Lebanese leadership. He is well aware that this leadership had rejected similar proposals in the past and it is not expected that these ideas would be accepted now. 
The Israeli prime minister ignores what is at hand  on the level of the peace process with the Palestinians and goes too further to suggest a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Siniora. He forgets or pretends to forget that Siniora’s consent on such a suggestion would never be less than a political suicide for the Lebanese government in the light of the complicated Lebanese factional and religious mosaic that is currently united under one approach – that Lebanon would be the last Arab state signing a peace treaty with Israel.
What is available on the Palestinian track seems to be a marginal asset treated by Olmert as subject to postponement or suspension. Consequently, he turns a blind eye on the facts that proved to be true time after time – not excluding the recent Israeli war with Hizbullah and the implications of this war in the Arab and Islamic world – these facts could be summed in recognizing that the Palestinian cause was and will be the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the source of dissatisfaction, tensions and anxieties in these countries.
These facts have been underscored had they were in need for assertion, by several world leaders, including high-ranking European and American officials who asked, when the last war was at the fiercest, for some kind of pressure on Israel to restart the peace negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the Road Map plan aiming at establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
If certain outside parties bet that the current dispute between Fatah and Hamas might end on an outcome for the benefit of the foreign pressures, it is obvious that this will be a losing gamble at the end of the day. Palestinians had long ago chosen the adoption of the peace process as their strategic option to realize their legitimate rights within a defined limit that they would never compromise, nor would they afford to give more concessions that might erode their national aspirations. No Palestinian faction or public figure would dare to contradict or challenge the public consensus on the level of this limit, no matter what the extent of the outside pressures or the severity of the international siege on the Palestinian territories.
The paradox in Olmert’s speech, and his predecessors’ statements, has been their conviction that using  military force, political and economic pressure would enable them to achieve their goals of dictating their plans on the Palestinian people.
Consequently they closed their eyes and wiped from their memories the experiences of several decades through which these Israeli policies had failed to deal with the Palestinians. It would have been more effective had these Israeli leaders abandoned this methodology and rather adopt the path of rational dialog and mutual respect. Then they would find the Palestinians more than ready to meet them in the middle of the way.
While the Israeli prime minister recognized what has been previously recognized – that President Mahmoud ‘Abbas is a legitimate partner, and expressed his readiness to meet him – he failed to respond to ‘Abbas’ condition for such a meeting which is the release of Palestinian prisoners. This makes Olmert’s position merely a political compliment without any factual foundation – especially when the relentless Israeli military campaign and the targeted assassinations continued unabated in Gaza Strip during the last days.
Mohammed Shaker Abdallah is a member of the editorial board of the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.