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December 9, 2010: Round and Round We Go

May 30, 2011

If I remember correctly, there’s an old children’s rhyme that says, “round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.”  But here in Israel, we had better make it our business to know where we’re stopping, or at least where we are headed.  We are not playing a game.  
What made me think of “round and round” is the direction being taken by the Obama administration regarding “peace talks.”  It’s a whole new direction, you see, a “new initiative,” as it were.  I’ve lost count of the number of “new initiatives” we’ve seen.
What’s going to happen, we’re being told, is that US officials will be meeting in Washington in coming days with representatives of Israel and the PA — separately.  Sound like the “proximity talks” that Obama started off with?  Don’t be silly.  If the US admitted this, it would be admitting that “the process” had taken a step backwards.  It’s not backwards, it’s “new.”
PJ Crowley, State Department spokesman, explained:
“We’re going to focus on the substance and try to make progress on the core issues themselves [borders, refugees, security, Jerusalem].  We think that will create the kind of momentum we need to get to sustained and meaningful negotiations.”  
Whose inspired idea was this?
Has the Obama administration not noticed that Abbas is still saying that he will not come to the table until all construction in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has been frozen?  That, in fact, Abbas is being obstructionist to the maximum?
Abbas is planning on meeting as soon as possible with Egyptian officials in Cairo (who will tell him that he should give the US more time before going to the Security Council).  He will, of course, consult with the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee regarding a response to the American announcement. Then he hopes to see the Arab League convened in Cairo — perhaps as early as next week — for advice on how to proceed.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh has said that there will be no PA response to the US plans until members of the Arab League have been consulted.  Abbas has told the Americans that the PA won’t be sending a representative to Washington for talks with US officials until there has been that consultation with the Arabs.  (So, no “indirect” talks yet, either.)
Allow me here to cite Yasser Abed Rabbo, whom journalist Khaled Abu Toameh describes as “a top PLO official closely associated with Abbas.”
Abed Rabbo says that the US decision harmed Washington’s credibility as an honest broker:
“If they can’t convince Israel or force it to stop settlement construction for a specified time, how will they make Israel accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders (sic)?” he asked in an interview on the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.
“Instead of announcing that Israel is responsible for the failure of the negotiations, the US administration is giving the Israelis an opportunity to waste more time.  The US policy has failed because of the blow it has received from Israel.”
What we see with this quote is the absolute and total lack of intention by the PLO/PA to negotiate with Israel.  They still imagine that they can force (embarrass?) Obama into leaning on Israel hard enough so that they can get what they want.
What must be asked is how many decision makers in Washington — or media sources in the US — are aware of this statement by Abed Rabbo.  We have it from the JPost because Abu Toameh, who is straight as they come, provides this information in translation from the Arabic.  The PA radio station, most clearly, broadcasts in Arabic.
So let’s help set the situation straight here.  Use the quote by Abed Rabbo and the URL. 
Send this to your elected representatives in Congress (lame duck though some are), and to the State Department, and to the White House.  Put it up on blogs and lists, write letters to the editor, call in to radio talk shows.  Ask over and over, how, in light of this evidence, the US government thinks it can promote genuine peace negotiations with real give and take and real compromise.
For your Congresspersons:


For your Senators:


For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Public Communication Division (accepts opinions from the public)

Phone 202-647-6575   Fax 202-647-1579

For President Barack Obama:

Fax: 202-456-2461   White House Comment line:  202-456-1111

e-mail form via:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/


In addition to providing this Abed Rabbo quote, it’s important to emphasize that no pressure should be put on Israel to make concessions of any sort whatsoever  — especially as it’s clear how obstructionist the Palestinian Arabs are.

(Can we not expect pressure of one sort or another by the Americans to be forthcoming.? Is not leaning on Israel and cutting the Palestinian Arabs slack the standard American MO?)


I recommend that you read the piece in Haaretz by Israel Harel, “Palestinians, not Israel, hold the key to peace.”

“…After more than four futile decades of unnecessary pressure on Israel, the Americans should revolutionize their approach and concentrate their efforts on those who hold the key to peace: the Palestinians. True, this is contrary to the opinion of the Israelis that the Americans listen to [left-wing, pro-Israeli concession Israelis], but it has traction for most Israelis. Even more important, it is right.

The essence is this: As a first step, the Arabs must be brought to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and as the national home of the Jewish people, in a public and binding way. As part of a peace agreement they must declare, on behalf of all their factions, the end of the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians and a complete relinquishment of the right of return.

A binding Arab commitment to these three elements will convince many Israelis who today do not believe in the Arabs’ desire for peace to reconsider their position….”



And then, a far more powerful piece by Benny Morris, “Bleak House: The prospects for a Palestinian state have rarely been more grim.”

What makes this particularly potent is that Morris was for a long time one of those left-wing Israelis of the sort Obama might want to listen to.  But he has clearly adjusted his thinking.  Please pay it careful attention and share it broadly.  It exposes important truths:

“…Even before we can get to such practical questions [regarding governance, economic aid, etc], though, there is a another more fundamental question that goes to the heart of the continuing historical struggle between two peoples for the same piece of land: What will be the geographical contours of the envisioned Palestinian state and what will be its nature? Put simply, will the envisioned state encompass all of Palestine, including the territory of the existing Jewish state, Israel, or will it include only the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, perhaps, Arab-populated East Jerusalem? And will the envisioned state be a secular, perhaps even ‘democratic,’ republic as promised by the Fatah-led PNA, which rules the West Bank, or will it be a fundamentalist, Islamic, sharia-based state, as sought by Hamas, which rules Gaza? Will one of the parties absorb or co-opt the other, or will the Palestinians maintain this political bifurcation indefinitely?


“Which brings us to the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiating impasse. I am not talking about the tactical problem posed by continued or discontinued Israeli construction in West Bank settlements…I am speaking of a basic, strategic impasse which, unfortunately, is far more cogent and telling than the ongoing ‘negotiations,’ which are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a “’framework agreement for a future peace accord. This unlikelihood stems from a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets.

“The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called ‘secular’ and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should. (Emphasis added)

“This basic Palestinian rejectionism, amounting to a Weltanschauung, is routinely ignored or denied by most Western commentators and officials. To grant it means to admit that the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other… (Emphasis added)

“In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals—and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential ‘otherness’ of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless.”



Jackson Diehl, writing in the NY Times — “Obama’s double-or-nothing moment in the Middle East” — observed that:

“The latest collapse of the Middle East peace process has…left President Obama with a tough choice: quietly shift one of his prized foreign policy priorities to a back burner — or launch a risky redoubling of U.S. efforts.”

The president has made the wrong choice.  He has set himself an impossible task.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.



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