Were I to report on every announcement with regard to the Israeli-Arab conflict, I’d be at my computer continuously, sending out multiple postings — so much seems to be happening. But my take, at the end of the day, is that a good deal of it is meaningless — and that not much is happening at all.
Obama is desperate. Everything he had set out to do at the beginning of his term, which is just a year old, has failed: He has not a single success to point to, either domestically or internationally. What is more, Democrats are abandoning ship, as there are resignations both in the House and Senate. Please G-d, we are witnessing the turning of the tide.
It has occurred to me that precisely because he is desperate, he is hoping that “the peace process” can be hurried along, so he can point to what he has achieved here. This is perhaps the most logical way to account for what we are hearing from the Obama administration now.
It made news this week that the US is beginning a new, more concerted push for Mid-East peace. Hillary Clinton, speaking with inflated optimism (Hillary as Pollyanna) said that we are now in a new year and so it’s time for a fresh start: “We’re going to be even more committed this year.” Oh joy. But how the turn of the calendar year even remotely affects the reality on the ground eludes me.
At any rate, hints of the new Obama “plan” were then released, with precious few specifics. One of the things that struck me is that it said there would be letters of guarantee given by the Obama administration to both parties. The nature of these guarantees was left vague, and I’ve seen different versions in different sources. One version spoke about guarantees to Israel that some settlements could be retained and guarantees to the PA that the ’67 lines would be the negotiating basis (this is “’67 lines with adjustments”). Another said that the US would guarantee the endgame. The bottom line, however, is that the US can “guarantee” nothing. The two parties will come to an arrangement, or they will not.
Meetings are being held with Jordanian and Egyptian officials, as the involvement of these two nations is viewed as important by the US.
Meanwhile, US envoy George Mitchell, speaking on the Charlie Rose show, said that once negotiations start resolution shouldn’t take more than two years, and it was his opinion that it could be accomplished in less. This, in my own opinion, makes him certifiably daft.
What concerns me most with regard to all of this is the strength of the Netanyahu administration, and the prime minister’s readiness and ability to “just say no.” The pressure on Netanyahu right now has to be unreal. But, while it’s very nice to be diplomatically clever and to utilize games to avoid a direct confrontation with Obama, there comes a time when our government must simply say, “NO MORE!”
This week, on Sunday and Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak “disappeared.” There has been vast speculation as to where he was. One thought was that he had gone to Jordan, to meet there with Abbas — a thought that was vastly unsettling. But another guess was that he was with National Security advisor Uzi Arad in India, with regard, presumably, to Iranian issues. We simply don’t know.
At the same time, it should be noted, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, has given a statement rejecting a two-year time frame. “In the past, attempts to impose time frameworks have not proved either realizable or helpful.” So, we are not automatically going along with what the US is proposing.
And where is the PA in all of this? I still believe that Abbas prefers not to come to the table, and is bound by internal politics to present a tough line. But the pressure is enormous on him, as well — from the US, Europe and even Egypt.
Abbas had the impression for a long time that the international community would do his work for him: declaring a state on ’67 lines, without his need to negotiate. But he’s finding that this is not the case. Perhaps most disconcerting for him is the failure of the European community to support him by declaring a Palestinian state. He runs the risk, should he continue to be obstinate, of losing some of the European largesse that has come his way so consistently. People are growing tired of his stance.
And so, this becomes a “watch and see” situation.
I hasten to note that even if he is pushed, reluctantly, into sitting at the table, this does not mean he will forge a deal. He will not — he cannot.
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has just insisted that negotiations must begin where they left off with the Olmert government. (We have no obligation legally to do so.) The offer made by Olmert — which was the most “generous” ever made and included almost all of Judea and Samaria as well as part of Jerusalem — was not accepted by Abbas. This means they want to start there, and demand even more. No chance, no way.
What is not being perceived by those pushing for “peace” is that there is a built-in irresolvable conflict in terms of Israeli and Arab end goals. Obama is setting himself up for yet another failure.
And then there is that elephant-in-the-room that I haven’t mentioned for a while: Hamas. I reiterate: The presence of this jihadist group in control in Gaza makes the whole idea of a “peace agreement” nonsense. If there is no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and no unity government put in place, then — were we to reach an agreement with the PA — we would end up with two Palestinian Arab entities, not one. A patently ridiculous state of affairs which no one is paying attention to.
If there is reconciliation — which Abbas is said to be working towards — then Fatah would be sharing a government with a group that refuses to even recognize Israel’s right to exist or to adhere to previous agreements. (I was going to also say, which endorses terrorism, but so does Fatah — even though the world ignores this fact.) How could Israel even pretend to negotiate given such parameters? How could the US endorse such negotiations when Hamas is on the US list of terrorist organizations?
Speaking of Gaza and Hamas, allow me to throw in this factor as well:
Since Cast Lead, our operation in Gaza a year ago, it has been relatively quiet, with periods in which no rockets at all were shot into Israel. But that period of quiet may be coming to an end. There now have been rockets fired into Israel again, and mortar fire aimed at crossings. A warning came recently from head of the IDF Southern Command Maj-General Yoav Galant regarding the fact that the situation may be heating up again.
And, in fact, Israel has begun actions inside of Gaza again — an operation carried out yesterday by our air force hit a terror tunnel in central Gaza, two weaponry smuggling tunnels in the Rafah Border area and one weaponry manufacturing facility in Gaza City. Over 500,000 leaflets were dropped urging civilians to avoid certain areas.
Two thoughts occur here: The first is the question of why things should be heating up right now. Is this an attempt by Hamas to sabotage any possible “peace process” between Fatah and Israel?
And then, perhaps even more to the point, is the related question of how this does affect possible negotiations. If we are once again going to be firing on Gaza, it makes it almost impossible for Abbas to sit at the table with us. He cannot — absolutely cannot — be seen as being on our side when there is a military action against Palestinian Arabs. Which, indeed, may be why Hamas would seek to incite such IDF action now.
This still leaves aside the tensions heating up between Egypt and Hamas, which are not insignificant, but which I will address in a future posting.
Mindful of my priorities, and the opportunity to embrace joy as it comes, I leave off now in order to prepare to be with my family for the bar mitzvah of my grandson tomorrow.