Tom Friedman's latest folly of a peace plan -- totally blind to Hamas's existence and agenda

Leo Rennert
In its June 19 edition, the New York Times runs a column by Tom Friedman about his own plan for resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Friedman's pretentions go well beyond a columnist's wisdom and opinions about current affairs.  He goes a big step further and fancies himself as a super-diplomat capable of cutting the Gordian knot to end the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With peace talks in limbo, Friedman proposes that the UN, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians pick up the pieces by going back to the UN's two-state partition plan of 1947, which recommended carving up Palestine under the British Mandate into two states --  one "Arab" and the other "Jewish."  To bring the 1947 resolution up to date, Friedman would condition peace talks on President Obama's formula -- based on the 1949 armistice lines that lasted until 1967, with mutually agreed land swaps.  He also would have the UN recognize Palestinian statehood and membership in the UN.  Finally, the updated UN resolution would call for negotiations "to resolve all the other unresolved issues" -- presumably the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Really "very simple," Friedman opines as he presents the brilliance of the Friedman Plan.  Each side gets something, he argues, although he fails to tell his readers that the Palestinians would get far more than the Israelis, who would have to swallow all current PA demands in return for, just maybe, PA recognition of Israel as a "Jewish" state.  As for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he would evidently embrace the Friedman Plan since he has "insisted that the 1967 border be the basis for any negotiations, and he wants to negotiate with Israel as a sovereign equal."

In lauding his own work, Friedman somehow overlooks the fact that if Israel accepts negotiations on final borders on the basis of the 1949-to-1967 lines, it will throw away its single most potent bargaining chip before talks even begin -- ceding land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, including the Old City.  This would put Abbas in a far stronger bargaining position than his Israeli counterpart when it comes to deciding the status of Jerusalem and the insistence of Palestinians for a "right of return" to Israel of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

But this not the only fly in the ointment of Friedman's super-plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.  Nowhere in his entire column does he bring up Hamas and its iron-fisted rule over all of Gaza -- nearly half of a potential Palestinian state.  Nor does he mention Hamas's inviolable agenda of eliminating Israel all together. 

To get around this little obstacle, Abbas has argued that an Egyptian-brokered "unity" deal between Fatah in the West Banka and Hamas in Gaza to create a single Palestinian entity ruled by a single government, would go a long way to justify recognition of Palestinian statehood and membership in the UN.

Just one problem:  No sooner had the ink dried on Friedman's column than the Palestinian "unity" deal, unveiled more than a month ago with great fanfare, has fallen apart.  A summit meeting between Abbas and Hamas super-chief Kheled Meshaal, slated for June 21 in Cairo to put the finishing touches on the deal, including selection of a prime minsiter and his cabinet, has been postponed indefinitely.

Hamas apparently is standing fast on its opposition to Abbas's nominee -- PA Prime Minister Fayyad -- whom it considers too friendly to Israel and to the U.S.  But if truth be told, the differences between Fatah and Hamas go much deeper.   For several weeks, Hamas leaders have made it crystal clear that they're also totally opposed to any recognition of Israel -- as a Jewish state or not as a Jewish state -- in any negotiations.  Hamas wants a Palestinian state next to Israel only as a first step in its stated objective of then proceeding to the next step -- the complete elimination of Israel.

Hamas, it can be safely assumed, wouldn't even buy the pro-Palestinian Friedman Plan.  It would denounce Abbas as a traitor for recognizing Israel as a "Jewish" state.  And for that matter, neither would Abbas, who's just as obdurate in rejecting a permanent "Jewish state" in the Middle East.

But all these realities don't bother Friedman in promoting his latest "very simple" peace plan.  He's so enamored with his own transcendent wisdom that he can't see the forest nor the trees.

The Times' headline over his column reads "What to Do With Lemons."   Anybody with a serious interest in the pursuit of peace in that region, however long it may take, would be well advised not to sip Friedman's lemonade.

In its June 19 edition, the New York Times runs a column by Tom Friedman about his own plan for resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Friedman's pretentions go well beyond a columnist's wisdom and opinions about current affairs.  He goes a big step further and fancies himself as a super-diplomat capable of cutting the Gordian knot to end the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With peace talks in limbo, Friedman proposes that the UN, the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians pick up the pieces by going back to the UN's two-state partition plan of 1947, which recommended carving up Palestine under the British Mandate into two states --  one "Arab" and the other "Jewish."  To bring the 1947 resolution up to date, Friedman would condition peace talks on President Obama's formula -- based on the 1949 armistice lines that lasted until 1967, with mutually agreed land swaps.  He also would have the UN recognize Palestinian statehood and membership in the UN.  Finally, the updated UN resolution would call for negotiations "to resolve all the other unresolved issues" -- presumably the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Really "very simple," Friedman opines as he presents the brilliance of the Friedman Plan.  Each side gets something, he argues, although he fails to tell his readers that the Palestinians would get far more than the Israelis, who would have to swallow all current PA demands in return for, just maybe, PA recognition of Israel as a "Jewish" state.  As for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he would evidently embrace the Friedman Plan since he has "insisted that the 1967 border be the basis for any negotiations, and he wants to negotiate with Israel as a sovereign equal."

In lauding his own work, Friedman somehow overlooks the fact that if Israel accepts negotiations on final borders on the basis of the 1949-to-1967 lines, it will throw away its single most potent bargaining chip before talks even begin -- ceding land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, including the Old City.  This would put Abbas in a far stronger bargaining position than his Israeli counterpart when it comes to deciding the status of Jerusalem and the insistence of Palestinians for a "right of return" to Israel of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

But this not the only fly in the ointment of Friedman's super-plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.  Nowhere in his entire column does he bring up Hamas and its iron-fisted rule over all of Gaza -- nearly half of a potential Palestinian state.  Nor does he mention Hamas's inviolable agenda of eliminating Israel all together. 

To get around this little obstacle, Abbas has argued that an Egyptian-brokered "unity" deal between Fatah in the West Banka and Hamas in Gaza to create a single Palestinian entity ruled by a single government, would go a long way to justify recognition of Palestinian statehood and membership in the UN.

Just one problem:  No sooner had the ink dried on Friedman's column than the Palestinian "unity" deal, unveiled more than a month ago with great fanfare, has fallen apart.  A summit meeting between Abbas and Hamas super-chief Kheled Meshaal, slated for June 21 in Cairo to put the finishing touches on the deal, including selection of a prime minsiter and his cabinet, has been postponed indefinitely.

Hamas apparently is standing fast on its opposition to Abbas's nominee -- PA Prime Minister Fayyad -- whom it considers too friendly to Israel and to the U.S.  But if truth be told, the differences between Fatah and Hamas go much deeper.   For several weeks, Hamas leaders have made it crystal clear that they're also totally opposed to any recognition of Israel -- as a Jewish state or not as a Jewish state -- in any negotiations.  Hamas wants a Palestinian state next to Israel only as a first step in its stated objective of then proceeding to the next step -- the complete elimination of Israel.

Hamas, it can be safely assumed, wouldn't even buy the pro-Palestinian Friedman Plan.  It would denounce Abbas as a traitor for recognizing Israel as a "Jewish" state.  And for that matter, neither would Abbas, who's just as obdurate in rejecting a permanent "Jewish state" in the Middle East.

But all these realities don't bother Friedman in promoting his latest "very simple" peace plan.  He's so enamored with his own transcendent wisdom that he can't see the forest nor the trees.

The Times' headline over his column reads "What to Do With Lemons."   Anybody with a serious interest in the pursuit of peace in that region, however long it may take, would be well advised not to sip Friedman's lemonade.