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January 3, 2010: What Is Going On?

April 22, 2010

“What Is Going On??”

With Netanyahu, that is, and his purported acquiescence to “67 lines with adjustments” as the basis for negotiations, which is making press in various quarters.

The concept of “67 lines with adjustments” is not new, but was advanced in the current context in November by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The idea, which I will return to in more detail soon, is that everything beyond the Green Line (or ’67 line) belongs to the Palestinian Arabs — which is most certainly is not the case.  This formulation, it is being said, would be great for Israel, because we would be allowed to retain major settlement blocs and, in return, would just have to give the Arabs land in the Negev or elsewhere inside the Green Line. The stuff of nightmares.  But close to what Abbas wants: recognition that Judea and Samaria (and eastern Jerusalem ) are “theirs.”

And now, this proposition is being floated as part of Mitchell’s “terms of reference” for resuming negotiations.


The statements regarding Netanyahu’s alleged concession on using this as the starting point for negotiations are coming from Palestinian Arab, US, and Egyptian sources.  A PA official, for example, spoke yesterday in Ramallah about “encouraging signs” that peace talks may begin soon. 

There is not so much as a leak from inside of Israel. 

Netanyahu went to Cairo last week and consulted with Mubarak regarding ways to jump start negotiations.  At that time Netanyahu apparently proposed that Mubarak host a meeting between himself and Abbas; Abbas will be seeing Mubarak this week. 

After Netanyahu left Cairo, he declared, “It’s time to move the peace process forward.”

Caroline Glick, on Friday, wrote, “The most sympathetic interpretation of Netanyahu’s proclamation is that he was engaging in political theater.  It was a low and dishonest statement…”  She said nothing about any concessions he had made.


My take is similar.  And I think Glick’s description — “theater” — is on the mark.  I believe Netanyahu is playing a game. An exceedingly stupid, dangerous, and cowardly game:

He is not taking stands that should be taken, not drawing lines that must be drawn in bright red, and publicly.  Instead, he is being deliberately vague — engaging in studied ambiguity — so that it cannot be said that he (perish the thought!) is responsible for stopping movement forward on the peace process.  He is, once again, seeking to avoid confrontation with the Obama administration.  But he is doing this without having made any firm commitment on “’67 lines with adjustments” or any other specific formulation. He just lets others draw conclusions, hear what they are oh so eager to hear.

I am convinced that at the end of the day, with all of the game-playing, he continues to bank on the assumption that Abbas doesn’t even want to come to the table and in any event has not the leverage or clout within his own party to close a deal.  I believe that he considers this game “safe.” 

I don’t.  Not because Abbas will cut a deal, but because precedents may be set that should not be set.  Things may be acknowledged, even implicitly, that should never be acknowledged.  And somehow, once again, we are perceived as being the ones who have to “give more.”


I would like to cite from an article in today’s Post by Khaled Abu Toameh:

When Netanyahu was in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Netanyahu discussed positions that “surpass in our estimate what we’ve heard [from the Israelis] in a long time.  I can’t say that he has come with changed positions, but he is moving forward.”

How does Prime Minister Netanyahu do this?  That is, leave people with the impression that he is “moving forward,” even as he brings no changed positions?  But the fact that he hasn’t brought new positions should not be missed.


I’ve consulted others whom I respect who offered the same take on what’s going on.  Quite frankly, I truly hope I’m correct here, not because I need to be right, but because if I’m wrong, things are even worse.


The irony is that I believe Abbas is playing a game as well.  I am convinced that he doesn’t want to come to the table — PA statements about “encouraging signs” notwithstanding — and could not possibly benefit from doing so:  There is no deal he could strike that would satisfy his basic (maximalist) demands.  Were he to settle for less, he would jeopardize his shaky political position and quite possibly his life. for the tenor of Palestinian Arab politics is growing ever more extremist. 

It was not politically correct to condemn the terrorist attack by members of Al Aksa on Rabbi Chai, and so he did not.  But when the IDF shot those terrorists, after they refused to surrender, he sent an envoy to tell their families that he had named them as “Shahids [holy martyrs] of the Palestinian revolution.”  Now he is talking about breaking off all security cooperation with Israel.


For a different model of how an official in Israel responds to the current situation, we can look to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman called a conference of Israeli ambassadors last week (calling them home from their posts for this), and, as their boss, said the following to them:

“In the acceptable codes of the Middle East, concepts such as ‘national pride’ have a very important value. You don’t have to provoke or incite, but there must not be an attitude of groveling or self disparagement.

“I have seen some ambassadors who identify with the place in which they serve so much that they keep trying to explain the other side. This is the wrong approach. The time of groveling is over, we will not look for pretexts for conflict or friction, but we will not turn the other cheek.

“…every thing [must] have a response, this is the policy I demand of you ambassadors. The ambassadors must have good relations and respect the hosting party, and should not look for provocations, but we will not tolerate insults and abuse.”  (emphasis added)

Blessings upon him!  He understands how much is lost when representative of our nation fail to exhibit national pride.  No more groveling. 


As to the PA, Leiberman said:

“Enough hypocrisy. We do not have to pay any additional price in order to talk with [Mahmoud Abbas]. We have paid enough, and have made many gestures and steps, but we have received nothing in return.”





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