The Annapolis Summit: Abu-Mazen Pushing an 'All or Nothing' Dynamic

In the lead up to the Annapolis Summit, Abu Mazen is trying to maneuver the sides into a negotiation dynamic of 'all or nothing'. In light of the visible gaps between the parties on outstanding issues, this approach greatly narrows the chances of reaching any achievement.
Last week, Abu-Mazen presented his positions towards the Annapolis Peace Summit which included a Palestinian State comprising 6205 sq. k. in the West Bank and Gaza and the demand to discuss key issues of the Permanent Status Agreement such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security.

Abu-Mazen is trying to maneuver Israel back into the sequence of the Oslo negotiations through an 'all-or-nothing' approach - in other words, combining all the separate issues into one package. However, in light of the visible gaps between the parties on the Outstanding Issues, this approach narrows the chances of reaching any achievement in the political process.

What is the Issue?

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams are currently working on a joint declaration towards the Annapolis Summit. Both sides disagree on the type and scope of the issues to be included in the statement. While Israel is hoping for a general non-binding 'declaration of intent' the Palestinians are insisting on a more detailed document presenting the parameters of a Permanent Status Agreement.

Through a series of public statements over the past week, the Palestinians are raising expectations for the summit, and are presenting demands that are unacceptable to Israel (see Abu-Mazen's comment above).

There are growing fears in Israel and the United States that too high expectations could lead to a failure of peace talks. In spite of this, Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice, is in favor of a detailed declaration (Ha'aretz, 14/10/07).

Why is this Important? Why Now?

The main principle of the peace process during the Oslo period was based on the package deal; in other words, one agreement which provides solutions for all historic disagreements and regulates the future relations between Israel and the Palestinian state. According to this sequence, the establishment of a Palestinian state was due to be established at the end of the process.

The Roadmap (04/03) inverted the sequence of the political process. According to the Roadmap, a Palestinian State in Provisional Borders (PSPB), was to be established during the second phase of the plan (after the dismantling of the terror infrastructure), and before an agreement on Permanent Status was reached (in phase III).

Even though the Palestinians accepted the Roadmap, and in the past have demanded an independent state, even in provisional borders, they have officially decided to reject the second phase of the Roadmap.

In this way, the Palestinians expressed their inversion in their positions regarding the establishment of a PSPB. (See: The Road-map and the Future of a Palestinian State)

In the current discussions, the Palestinians continue this position. They are thus maneuvering Israel back into the package approach based on an 'all or nothing' dynamic. This, in spite of Abu Mazen's clear weakness and skepticism over his ability to achieve, ratify or implement an agreement.

Thus, the Palestinians are reducing the chances of reaching any type of agreement, even one with a limited agenda, and are raising the possibility that the political process will collapse. As an example of the current logic of the negotiations, without agreement on the Jerusalem Holy Places, there will be no security or economic agreement.

Policy Options

The failure of the political process is likely to undermine the status of Abu Mazen and the Palestinian 'moderate' camp and deal a lethal blow to the principle of the 'two state solution.' (See: Is Israel preparing for the failure of the Summit?)

Israel needs to develop an inclusive strategy to achieve its national goals independent of the present negotiations, whose chances of collapse have increased in light of Abu Mazen's 'all or nothing' strategy.

Since Israel has an interest in ending its control over the Palestinians, Israel could upgrade the PA's status by transferring to it powers and authorities in different areas. This could be done unilaterally, or in conjunction with third parties, in parallel to the present negotiations and independent of their results. The logic behind these steps is to create a security net to enable the PA to 'survive' the possible failure of the political process.