It’s difficult to get a handle on what’s going on, with regard to our relationships with the PA and with Obama’s administration. So much is bewildering: enormous stupidity if not outright insanity.
Last I wrote, I discussed what is likely a Netanyahu “theatrical game,” in which he lets certain assumptions be made, by way of innuendo or vagueness, without actually committing to anything. The specific issue at hand was whether he had agreed to accept “’67 lines with adjustments” as the starting point for negotiations.
Yesterday, according to a source in a closed door meeting (with the leak most surely sanctioned), Netanyahu overtly denied that he had either agreed to this formulation, or shown flexibility on issues of Jerusalem and refugees.
According to the report, he insisted, “It’s simply not true.” This was the Palestinian notion of what should take place, he said, but “That is not going to happen.”
Yet on Monday other news also broke.
According to Egyptian sources, Obama is going to be putting forth a plan that calls for completion of negotiations and a Palestinian state within two years. In accordance with this, the two sides would exchange mutual letters offering guarantees. When negotiations began, they would focus on establishing borders — with this to be completed in nine months, i.e., by the end of the current building freeze. (That way there’d be no fighting about building, as we’d be able to build only in the areas that we would know are going to remain in Israeli hands.) Negotiations would then move to issues such as refugees and Jerusalem.
I hasten to point out that this didn’t come from the White House or State Department sources. There is a tendency for involved parties to attribute positions or statements to others that comport with what they hope to see. It’s a form of manipulation. IS this Obama’s plan? Is this something the US is floating indirectly to gauge reactions? Minister Moshe Ya’alon has stated that what Egypt is attributing to the US is “not even close to being accurate.” Do he and others in the government know what Obama intends to propose?
However, if one definition of insanity is being out of touch with reality, then this plan, whomever it belongs to, is certainly insane.
To be truly and solidly sane would be to recognize that it’s impossible for borders to be established for a Palestinian state (and in the next nine months, yet). For even what we might (G-d forbid) offer in the way of a horrendously generous deal would be less than what Abbas would (or, in line with his political constraints, could) accept. It’s simply not going to happen.
There are other objections to this plan as well, and our government has now made clear what they are. Israel’s position is one of “all or nothing.” There’s no deal until there’s a full deal.
As one senior Israeli official pointed out, the above formulation would mean we relinquished land, and the communities on this land, without getting anything in return up front. We would have no picture of the sort of state that would be established on the other side of the line we would have agreed to, no parameters regarding demilitarization or anything else.
People in our governments sometimes do foolish things. But no one in our government — from right to left — is on board for this.
Additionally, it has been reported that Foreign Minister Lieberman told Quartet Envoy Tony Blair yesterday that:
“It is important to hold an honest, open dialogue with the Palestinians without sowing delusions that are disconnected with reality and that will only lead to violence and frustration. It is not possible to reach a full agreement within two years.
“This is not a realistic goal. We need to begin direct talks without committing to any time frame. In the past, timetables were set and not met and this led to violence.”
Not for a second do I think that this statement was made without a nod from the prime minister’s office.
Meanwhile, Abbas has met with Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, and his statements simply confirm my impression that he’s not coming to the table.
He says he has no pre-conditions. No, no. It’s just that: “We have said and are still saying that at the time when settlement construction is stopped and the international legitimacy is recognized [presumably with regard to the ’67 lines as borders], we will be ready to resume the negotiations.”
Egyptian delegations will now be headed to Washington and London to discuss advancing the “peace process.”
Media reports persist in saying that the Egyptians are carrying “new ideas” that had been proposed in Cairo by Netanyahu. An anonymous Palestinian official cited in the Post said these ideas touch upon all core issues. But unless there is something concrete revealed I give this no credence. Perhaps Netanyahu has made suggestions that we are not privy to. Perhaps he has “suggested” certain things via innuendo. But it’s just as likely that this is one more instance of a rumor without basis in fact floated for ulterior purposes.
The Egyptians, when they serve in a mediating role, are not disinterested third parties. They have their own vested interests, and we must not forget this.
What is more, they become inappropriately invested in the negotiating process itself. When the negotiations about Shalit stalled recently, the Egyptians were angry with us. They had worked so hard, they had brought the sides so close. But because we were stubborn and wouldn’t release Barghouti, or insisted that certain terrorist be deported, we were chastised by them for “ruining” their efforts. If only we would be more forthcoming, then their good work would not be in vain. Never mind our right to protect our interests.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak got on the phone today, with our “good friend” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, and asked him to help get talks with the PA going. Precisely what is this urgency about? Couple this with Netanyahu’s statement that “there is a change in the atmosphere [and] the time is ripe for kick-starting the peace process.” I must be missing something with regard to that changed atmosphere.
This “feels” crazy, and perhaps it is.
Except… except…it is possible that the push by our government to get negotiations going might be an attempt to expose the duplicity of the Palestinians, who are not truly committed to peace, while we are. I remain too cynical about the world to be confident that this would work. For it would require the international community to view the Palestinian Arabs objectively, rather than perpetually cutting them slack.
But it seems our government is trying. And it would sure give a different slant to some of what Netanyahu is doing.
Consider this. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign yesterday put up on the homepage of its website “Behind the Headlines: The Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate,” which says:
“The consistent rejection by Palestinians of Israeli peace initiatives and its current refusal to negotiate leaves Israel questioning whether its neighbors are in fact committed to peace.” Making a very solid case, it then details all the times Israel has advanced peace initiatives, and all the times the PA has rejected them.
How I would love to think that this is part of a plan that would lead, finally, to our saying, “enough”: We’re finished with concessions; if the Palestinian Arabs genuinely want peace, they can let us know. As Lieberman actually said something similar the other day, it is perhaps not too far-fetched a hope.
There has been news that Obama is getting fed up with the Iranians and will be pushing sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard; apparently there are consultations already going on with other nations in this regard. That’s a much-welcomed announcement — although it remains to be seen how serious these sanctions will be.
However…Hillary Clinton, in making the announcement about sanctions, also said, “We’ve avoided using the term ‘deadline’ ourselves. That’s not a term we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open.”
Is it that they cannot admit that “dialogue with Iran” was a futile notion? After the way that Iran has spit on Obama’s outstretched hand, and the hard evidence that the Iranians are grossly deceptive, why would the president imagine that anything positive could be achieved via this “open-door” policy? It simply makes the US look very foolish.
One more failure to embrace reality.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my cat Amber, a dear companion for eight years, whom I lost prematurely yesterday to disease. Love takes many forms in this hard world.