Well, Mitchell is here in order to begin those “proximity talks.” But even though he met with Netanyahu today — and some media sources referred to this meeting as the kick-off of those talks — they have not officially started yet.
Mitchell had arrived under the assumption that all systems were “go.” However, Abbas then indicated he had additional stops along the way to starting. Yesterday it was said that he had to check with the PLO — with their Central Committee scheduled to meet on Saturday. Today it was Fatah he had to clear things with: to that end the Fatah Central Committee is being convened. Fatah — which is still committed to “resistance” — is less than enthusiastic about talks, but is expected to provide at least a tentative go-ahead.
Abbas is not leaving any bases uncovered. Whatever happens, he wants to sure that he had political sanction to proceed and that he’s not going to be out there standing by himself. Or, put another way, he’s looking to drag this out as long as possible because he really, really does not want to be involved.
In case you’ve just tuned in: The political atmosphere within the PA — influenced to a considerable degree by the radical jihadist Hamas — is decidedly not moderate, whatever the spin of media and certain politicians. In the years that I have been monitoring Fatah, I’ve watched it pull back from even a semblance of moderation. The stronger Hamas has become, the more blatant is the Fatah-dominated PA in following its line.
It’s a cyclical, self-perpetuating pattern: Incitement by the PA encourages radicalism, and then the street, which celebrates terrorists as heroes (is taught to celebrate terrorists as heroes), has expectations of its leaders that tilts in favor of violence and obstructionism. Abbas has virtually no wiggle room in terms of compromise with Israel. Agreeing to concessions that are perceived as a sell-out (e.g., that Israel is the Jewish state), could literally cost him his life. And yet, the world is calling upon him to “make the hard decisions for peace.”
Thus the foot-dragging, an omen of the failure that is bound to follow from this “process.” If I did not so thoroughly despise this man, and feel so convinced that he set himself up for this and deserves what he will get, I might be tempted to pity him. Might, metaphorically.
This is a man, you understand, who likes to travel abroad, but hesitates to move about in certain areas controlled by the PA, because his life would not be safe. A pathetic pretense for a leader, yet embraced by Obama.
I’m hardly alone in my assessment of what’s happening — many far more knowledgeable than I have the same (self-evident) take. Pessimism is in the air.
Minister of Intelligence Dan Meridor, who is on the left flank of Likud, has already put out a statement to the JPost regarding his concern that the PA will avoid making those “tough decisions.”
While Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu) has declared, “With my hand on my heart, I don’t believe the proximity talks will lead to anything…”
And National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) told Army Radio this morning that the PA is already planning the breakdown of the proximity talks.
This was the sentiment of Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence’s Research Division, who delivered a briefing yesterday to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The Palestinians were “already preparing the ground for the failure” of the proximity talks, he told the committee.
Sure enough, today Abbas made a statement with regard to those talks, even before he had even officially entered them:
“Negotiations will focus on final status issues and there’s no need to enter into details and small matters because we have had enough of that in the previous negotiations. We said the indirect negotiations will last only four months. After that, we will go to the Arab League to consult on whether to continue or what to do.”
Abbas and his cohorts have further let it be known that during the course of these four months they want us to pull back to pre-intifada lines, and open Orient House for the PA in eastern Jerusalem. Further they want us to cede full control of the Jordan Valley to the PA.
In addition, Abbas has said he will terminate talks if there is building in the “West Bank.”
During the course of all of this, Netanyahu continued to declare that he was ready. That eager declaration was, once again, undoubtedly for international consumption: “See, see, who the problem is.” (Yes, I know…)
He has put together a small negotiating team (small, I understand, to prevent leaks.) It’s unclear — because of conflicting reports — as to whether the prime minister himself will be heading it, or attorney Yitzhak Molcho, a trusted Netanyahu confidant who has done negotiating for him before. Also included are National Security Advisor Uzi Arad, and Ron Dermer, a key Netanyahu advisor.
Whatever the case, today Netanyahu met with Mitchell — part of the time the two were alone, and for a portion of the meeting Arad and Molcho, as well as Mitchell aides Dan Shapiro and David Hale participated. The meeting was pronounced “good” (whatever that means); they will be meeting again tomorrow.
In due course, presumably before the end of this week, Mitchell will be traveling to Ramallah for a meeting there, as well. But it will be some days yet before those talks officially begin, if indeed they do.
In advance of the talks, Obama placed a call to Netanyahu. In the course of the discussion, as related by Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, “The president reaffirmed his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Grabs you in the heart, does it not?
Allow me to elaborate on how strong and deep that commitment is:
The five permanent members of the Security Council — which includes the US — have issued a statement at a NPT review conference saying, “We are committed to full implementation of the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty resolution on the Middle East and we support all ongoing efforts to this end.
“We are ready to consider all relevant proposals in the course of the (NPT) Review Conference in order to come to an agreed decision aimed at taking concrete steps in this direction.”
This is a call for establishing a nuclear-free zone that would require Israel to relinquish whatever such arms she has.
Egypt has been pushing for a conference by next year to rid the Middle East of nuclear arms. Reuters reports that negotiations are on-going with Egypt to come up with a compromise proposal. Clinton has said she supports a nuclear-free zone here, but this may not yet be the time.
You might, however, want to read John Bolton’s take on this:
Explains CBN, in citing Bolton: Successive U.S. administrations – aware of the vulnerability of the tiny Jewish state surrounded by a sea of less-than-friendly Arab neighbors – have supported Israel’s longstanding policy of ambiguity on its nuclear weapons programs.
“When I was in the Bush administration, we refused to even talk about these kinds of ideas,” said Bolton. “I’d be quite worried about the possible outcome here.
“The president is not happy with Israel’s nuclear capabilities. I think he would be delighted if Israel gave up its nuclear weapons.
“The only unknown answer at this point is exactly how much pressure he would exert on Israel to do just that.”
See, also, the editorial in today’s JPost on the subject:
“Not many fair-minded people, including in this region, have lost sleep over the fact that responsible Israel reportedly has nuclear warheads. Much of this region is profoundly panicked by the specter of a nuclear Iran.
“Preventing this is the single most important challenge that faces the Obama administration…
IT SHOULD be crystal clear that, instead of allowing Egypt to sidetrack it with talk of disarming Israel, the US should focus on galvanizing the international community to stop Iran.
“Glibly calling for a ‘nuclear free Middle East’ blurs the moral distinctions between the hegemonic designs of that messianic, apocalyptic regime and the essential deterrent and defensive needs of our small, embattled democracy.”
At its joint press conference with the Foreign Ministry earlier this week, the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) announced release of a study, “From Terrorists to Role Models: The Institutionalization of Incitement.” It is important because it makes the point that an attitude of honoring terrorists is pervasive within the Palestinian Arab society — it’s not a fringe attitude. PMW director Itamar Marcus outlined four steps in the process of incitement: promoting hate, redefining acts of terror as acts of resistance, calling for the killing of Jews, and glorifying murder and terror.
Tomorrow, at 2:00 PM, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, Marcus will be releasing his report. I have no idea how widely this is open to the public, but PMW did put out a release. For more information or to RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to this activity, the Security Cabinet began today to discuss a new mechanism for monitoring incitement: an incitement index for monitoring and quantifying incitement on a regular basis. This is being advanced by Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry.