Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
The US plans afoot to bring Netanyahu and Abbas to Washington to kick off direct negotiations are most definitely not a harbinger of anything good.
Yesterday, in a briefing for the press, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by special envoy George Mitchell, announced that:
“Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and
President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
“After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
“President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.”
See here for the full briefing with press questions:
Also on Friday, the Quartet (the US, the UN, the EU, and Russia) issued a statement, which said in part:
The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements…which [provide] that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should “lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.
“The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement. The Quartet again calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric. Welcoming the result of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee in Cairo on July 29, the Quartet notes that success will require sustained regional and international support for the negotiations and the parallel process of Palestinian state-building and the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace…The Quartet Principals intend to meet with their colleagues from the Arab League in September in New York to review the situation. Accordingly, the Quartet calls on the Israelis and the Palestinians to join in launching direct negotiations on September 2 in Washington, D.C. to resolve all final status issues and fulfill the aspirations of both parties.”
What does one say to this except “Oi vey”?
Anyone who has even a modicum of genuine understanding of the situation here (which leaves out a whole lot of people) is able to recognize that this latest effort towards a “two-state solution” is going to go nowhere, but is likely to cause many headaches for us and possibly generate additional violence before it arrives.
An independent, viable, democratic Palestinian state living in peace and security next to Israel, to be established within a year…
The PA is not peaceful, continuing as it does to utilize textbooks that promote jihad and otherwise honor terrorists. Not to mention that a major part of its budget goes to Gaza and ends up in Hamas hands.
It is not democratic. One or two elections do not a democracy make. Never mind that the PA is past due for elections, and that Abbas’s term has expired. There is no free press in the PA, next to no human rights.
And viable? This is a joke, when we’re talking about the entity that receives more funds per capita than any other group in the world.
But these problems will all be corrected within a year.
Oh, and the small matter of Hamas — which controls Gaza and is eager to take over a PA state in Judea and Samaria as well — will be dispensed with. I’ve lost track of how many times Abbas said that a deal has to include all the Palestinian people?
Can it truly be that the Quartet is doing anything but spouting words here? Can they possibly take their own declaration seriously?
From the Israeli perspective, what I see most troubling is the Quartet reference to the Arab Peace Initiative, which — in supporting, among other things, “right of return” — is a plan for the slow destruction of Israel, and to the end of the “occupation,” which means Israel pulling back to pre-67 lines.
I am further unhappy with a kick-off in Washington, which puts our prime minister under additional pressure.
The PLO Executive Committee met on Friday night and, according to WAFA, the official PLO news agency, voted to accept Secretary Clinton’s invitation, based on the Quartet statement.
However, the PLO also noted that if Israel didn’t “halt all settlement activities, it consequently threatens the continuity of direct negotiations.”
And here I stop to note that the Quartet statement did not include this pre-condition, as earlier rumors predicted it would. What had been said is that the US would then follow with a statement without pre-conditions. My assumption is that matters were resolved this way, instead, with no separate US statement.
But the PLO has implicitly laid out that same pre-condition in any event. And negotiator Saeb Erekat, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, was explicit about this today:
“The Palestinian leadership will pull out of peace talks if the Israeli government announces additional settlement construction projects [outside] the 1967 borders (sic), senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed Saturday.
“‘If the Israeli government decides, on 26 September, to continue to permit the submission of settlement bids, then there will be no talks,’ Erekat said, adding that the stance was reached during the PLO Executive Committee meeting Friday that formally accepted the US invitation to re-start direct talks.
“…Erekat’s statement appeared to broaden the demand, however, in stating that any settlement announcement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, would be considered provocation. The initial partial moratorium did not include the occupied holy city.”
And so here’s the deal: If indeed the meeting takes place on September 2, the Palestinians may be counting on Obama to pressure Netanyahu into extending that freeze — which would be an unmitigated disaster for us. This is one reason why the fact that the meeting is in Washington is such bad news. The turf on which a meeting is held has significant psychological impact.
Or, alternatively, they may simply plan on using this as their out, while blaming us for the failure of the talks.
A great deal will fall to us in the next couple of weeks, with regard to all of this — and you’ll be hearing from me about it. It is imperative that Netanyahu stay strong with regard to not continuing the freeze. The sense I’m getting is that he knows that this would not be a politically viable move here in Israel, but nothing can be left to wishful thinking or chance.
What I find interesting is that there has been no direct public statement regarding the talks (that I’ve uncovered) by PA president Mahmoud Abbas himself, although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put out a statement welcoming this opportunity. Perhaps more on Netanyahu’s approach later, but here I focus on Abbas.
Clinton said there was consultation with both parties before the invitation was extended. And indeed this is the way such things are done, to insure success of an event of major proportions. But Mitchell, at the press conference, made it clear that “consultation” didn’t mean securing acceptance in this instance — if was, rather, more a matter of letting the parties know what was coming. The PLO didn’t even meet to decide whether to accept the invitation until Friday night.
We will presume for the moment that Abbas ultimately will show up in Washington by September 2. But his failure to demonstrate public enthusiasm about this meeting is a large piece of the story. If Abbas does show up, he will have come kicking and screaming.
I hate being tiresome and repeating what’s been said before, but it seems I have no choice here: Abbas’s reluctance, in and of itself, assures failure. While he may be pushed to sit at the table, he is not going to negotiate anything that includes reasonable compromise, and the net result of the talks will be only failure. More’s the pity that Obama et al don’t — or choose not to — comprehend this.