Negotiating Postures

Steve Erlanger in Tel Aviv: “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews published Friday that Israel would not allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to what is now Israel, and that the country bore no responsibility for the refugees because their plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on Israel when it was a fledgling state.” Not a single refugee? Really? This is such an absurd position that I think I have to take it as a good sign. Given an otherwise favorable peace deal, Olmert would really reject it over the inclusion of, say, seven Palestinians? Really? Of course not. That’s dumb. Just as the Palestinian counterproposal to have millions of Arabs who’ve never even lived there “return” to Israel’s side of the Green Line is dumb.

The refugee issue, however, is eminently resolvable by negotiations, and when you see people staking out negotiating positions (as opposed to simple posturing “we’re ready for peace; we just need a partner for peace”) that means negotiations may be next. Unless I’m mistaken, Ehud Barak solemnly promised never to agree to a division of Jerusalem just before agreeing to a division of Jerusalem.