WorldNet Daily is carrying an "insider account" of secret US-brokered negotiations that will supposedly lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of this year:
According to the source who has been playing a role in the meetings, the two sides are drafting an agreement, to be signed by the end of the year, requiring Israel to evacuate most of the West Bank and certain eastern sections of Jerusalem.
The source said Israeli community blocks in the zones of Gush Etzion, Maale Adumin and Ariel would remain Israeli while most of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem will be slated for a Palestinian state.
In contradiction to statements by Olmert, the status of sections of Jerusalem is being negotiated but the specifics of any agreed-upon Israeli withdrawal is as yet unclear, said the source.
"It is understood [Jerusalem] Arab neighborhoods would become part of a Palestinian state," the source said.
The source told WND both sides agreed Israel would retain Jerusalem's Pisgat Zeev neighborhood, which is located near large Arab communities. Many of those Arab towns were constructed illegally on property owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit that purchases property using Jewish donors funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement.
The source said the U.S. pledged advanced training for thousands of PA security officers who would take over security in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem and operate in those territories instead of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police.
The U.S. previously has trained thousands of Palestinian security officers, including units in which known members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group serve. Scores of those security forces have carried out terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, including recent deadly shootings in the West Bank.
But the source claimed the planned U.S. training is different:
"This training is unlike anything before. The PA, Israel and the U.S. are working very closely to vet the forces. All sides are approving the training candidates. The training is more advanced than ever. It will create a very serious Palestinian army," said the source.
Color me skeptical, but also hopeful. I was in favor of Israel withdrawing from Gaza, not because I expected it to improve the prospects for peace, but because in my view, it was an untenable situation for Israel to devote military resources to protecting a few thousand Jewish settlers embedded among a million-plus Palestinians in a Hamas-led enclave. In a post dated August, 2005 I wrote:
The Gaza pullout makes tremendous sense to Israel, not as a "peace offering" (Sharon is not so naive) but as a military strategy. It makes no sense to have 9,000 settlers surrounded by 1.3 million Palestinians, many of whom want them dead. Even from a religious standpoint, Gaza has little significance compared to areas of the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria" to the Israeli right). It requires some thirty thousands IDF soldiers to protect those settlements, and Sharon's decision to abandon them is based purely on a cost-benefit analysis. Removing the settlements not only removes the roadblocks and occupation forces that have increased misery for the Palestinian residents of Gaza, but it also puts the emphasis on the creation of a functioning civil government. He (and future Israeli leaders) can now demand that Gaza get its house in order before there are any further concessions. And should Israel need to undertake military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups using Gaza as a base, they can go on the offensive without having to divert resources to protecting setllers (not killing innocent Palestinians in the process will still be a major challenge, given that terrorist groups often hide among and draw support from the civilian population).
Since then, we have seen that the Hamas leadership in Gaza did not take advantage of the pullout to "get its house in order" and create a functioning civil government, but rather to continue to target Israeli civilians with rocket attacks on Sderot, near the Gaza border. Hamas has made no bones about their aim to establish Palestine in the place of Israel and to murder Jews as a means to that end. Although the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is led by the supposedly "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah ("Conquest") party, I do not expect a different outcome were Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Fatah and Hamas have the same goal, they differ only in their tactics and timframe, with Fatah willing to use negotiations as an interim step to the long-term goal of eliminating Israel altogether, which has never been eliminated from the PLO charter.
So that explains the skeptical part, but then how in the world could I be hopeful? Because a two-state solution ultimately makes more sense for Israel than the alternative: a single "bi-national" Jewish-Arab state which, through sheer demographics, would soon become yet another Arab majority country in the region. For better or worse, Israel is the only place on earth where Jews can live as a majority and live according to their own religious and cultural norms. To maintain Israel is a Jewish state (one where Arabs ironically have more political freedom than anywhere else in the Middle East), the Israeli government will need to relinquish the West Bank to the Palestinians.
This will not bring about an end to terrorism against Israel, but it will allow for clarity as to what motivates that terrorism: the refusal of many Arabs to accept, in any form, the existence of a Jewish state in their midst (84% of Palestinians preferred continued violence over talks, according to a recent poll). Nonetheless, with the removal of the occupation as a pretext and Palestine officially negotiated and on the map, it will be difficult to maintain the fiction that the conflict has ever been solely about land and borders.
But with the US fully engaged and applying the lessons learned from its counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq, there is a possibility that over the coming years, some semblance of civil society will return to the West Bank, as well as economic development and trade with Israel. We saw glimpses of this during the illusion of Oslo -- if a deal can finally be reached, we may yet see that illusion become the reality. As the alternative would be a continuation of endless war, one can't fault Bush and Olmert from making one last effort before the clock runs out for both of them.