Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Turkey on 6 January and attempted to dance his own version of the Turkey Trot - 100 years after its first introduction to the ballroom floor.
The Turkey Trot was a dance made popular in the early 1900s. The basic step consisted of four hopping steps sideways with the feet well apart, first on one leg, then the other with a characteristic rise on the ball of the foot, followed by a drop upon the heel. The dance was embellished with scissor-like flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.
Abbas seems to have now adopted some similar fancy footwork in his approach to resuming negotiations with Israel
He reportedly told Turkey’s assembled diplomats that he was ready to resume talks with Israel if Israel recognized the legitimacy of the Annapolis peace process initiated in November 2007 - which he said was a road map that required Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian and Arab territory and from East Jerusalem.
His statement to the Turkish diplomats marks a remarkable sideways step by Abbas who had previously refused to resume negotiations with Israel unless Israel froze all building activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and also recognized the 1967 armistice lines as the border of a future Palestinian State.
Abbas however seems to have been dancing on one leg in front of the Turkish diplomats because the Annapolis process
•Does not bind the current Israeli Government- as Abbas led the Turkish ambassadors to believe for the following reasons:
•Does not require Israeli withdrawal from “occupied Palestinian and Arab territory and from East Jerusalem”
1.The then Israeli Government in 2007 never ratified Annapolis - nor did the Knesset - Israel’s sovereign Parliament.
2.The one document that binds Israel is its ratification of the 2003 Road Map formulated by President Bush and adopted unanimously by the Quartet - America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations subject to 14 reservations made by Israel and communicated in writing to President Bush.
3.Israel’s then Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - made it quite clear to Abbas and the world leaders assembled at Annapolis on 27 November 2007 that the negotiations under Annapolis were to be “based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter from President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”
Letters from American Presidents to Israeli Prime Ministers are important documents and none was more important than the one President Bush wrote to Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 to procure Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.
That letter made it clear - amongst many other commitments - that the Arabs could not expect to regain 100% of the West Bank and Gaza in any negotiations with Israel.
The Arabs however refused to play ball and insisted on 100% - not the 93% offered by Israel plus an additional area from Israel’s sovereign territory to make up the remaining 7% that would be retained in the West Bank by Israel.
Instead of pressuring the Arabs to accept this proposal the Quartet - America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - sought to pressure Israel into more concessions that would have seen the West Bank ethnically cleansed of Jews who had returned to live in their biblical heartland since 1967 - after having been kicked out of there in 1948 by six invading Arab armies.
In going for Israel’s jugular the Quartet cut its own collective wrists and - with assured predictably - failed to get an agreed outcome by the Annapolis expiry date - 1 January 2009.
Abbas’s crocodile tears and slick foot movements are now the order of the day. Like the Annapolis Conference they are a total waste of time.
Perhaps Abbas should now reflect on the only game in town - the Roadmap - and Israel’s 14 reservations to it - and reflect why six years of negotiations have so far come to nought.
Abbas’s cursory dismissal of these 14 reservations by Israel has been one of the major obstacles to achieving any negotiated settlement of the claims by Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza
The first of those reservations immediately indicates why the Roadmap cannot succeed whilst it remains unimplemented:
“In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure, collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed, cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority, activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and Zinni plans.”
There is nothing unambiguous in Israel’s demands - dismantle Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrrorist groups, end weapons smuggling and weapons production.
If Abbas seriously wants to return to the Annapolis process then he needs to affirm the parameters on which any negotiations will be conducted and acknowledge the centrality of the letter from President Bush to then Prime Minister of Israel - Ariel Sharon - on 14 April 2004 and accept Israel’s reservations to the Road Map.
The sooner Abbas acknowledges and accepts these two crucial documents as integral to any negotiations, the sooner he might find a partner to do the Turkey Trot with him.
Both partners will still however have to really engage in some scissor like flicks of the feet - if any progress is ever going to be made in achieving the creation of a brand new sovereign Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.