I wish to thank everyone who yesterday contacted those members of the Security Cabinet who are tending towards either voting for the renewed freeze or abstaining, but might still be convinced otherwise.
If you haven’t sent your messages yet, please do so! And emphasize the need for the US promises to be in writing — especially when contacting the Shas ministers. (More on this below.)
There seem to have been some problems with the e-mail address of Eli Yishai (of all people!) and I had hoped by today to have secured a new address, but have not been able to. Please, even if you are in the US, if you have access to a fax machine, fax him: 02-666-2909.
Additionally, I have been provided with a new fax number for Yuval Steinitz that may be more effective than the one I had yesterday: 02-569-5335. (With thanks to Judith N.)
One last “housekeeping” matter. Whatever your sincere passion for these events (and that passion is acknowledged!), I ask, please, that you never include my original posting in the e-mail message you send to members of the government. It undermines the purpose of your message, rather than strengthening it.
The title of today’s post is most appropriate because the current situation has spun out into a situation that is unreal. I do not intend to belabor it all: we’ll see what happens in due course. But what we’ve got now is the following:
 The Israeli government is waiting for the US government to put in writing what Clinton told Netanyahu verbally.
I suggest that Israel might have to wait a long time.
Yesterday, when State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked about the commitment (made by his boss!) to provide Israel with an additional 25 fighter jets, he said:
“We are committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the region – but beyond that, I’m not going to comment.
“I would just always caution that any time you have reports about specific things, some details may be right, some details may be wrong.”
Not an encouraging sign of US sincerity. But then, to expect US sincerity would be foolish. (More on this follows.)
Perhaps US officials were under the impression that Netanyahu and company were gullible enough to simply take Clinton’s word for whatever was said. But this is not the case. Netanyahu said clearly that he would not bring the proposal to the Security Cabinet until it was finalized in writing. What is more, what is written must “reflect the understandings reached during…talks with Hillary Clinton in New York.”
Trying to pass this through the Security Cabinet on the basis of a verbal commitment only would likely be a losing proposition, in any event. Yishai spoke about abstaining if there were written promises from Obama. And the more MKs and ministers opposed to the freeze have focused on ways in which the US has reneged in the past on guarantees, the more uneasy the government has become with regard to proceeding without everything in writing.
 At the same time, the PA is screaming, “It’s not fair!” If they agree to come back to the table even though we won’t freeze building in Jerusalem, they say, they want guarantees and a package of additional assistance from the US as well. According to YNet, Palestinian Arab sources told al-Quds al-Arabi in London that commitments from the US would be forthcoming, and that they are waiting.
Of course, the fact that the Palestinian Arabs say so, does not make it so, and we must keep this in mind. But there seems no doubt that their feathers are ruffled by what it has been reported the US is ready to promise Israel, and there is every reason to believe that they are demanding something additional of the US.
At any rate, what is being said is that there would be diplomatic and financial aid provided to the PA by the US, as well as a promise that borders would be set in three months. That, of course, is an impossible promise to make.
With it all, it is also being said that the Palestinian Arabs don’t feel confident that they’ll get enough additional from the US, and thus they want to consult with the Arab League — with the idea of going to the Security Council still on the table. Abbas apparently cancelled a meeting with a US diplomat yesterday. What is more, while US diplomats say they are keeping the PA apprised of the “freeze proposal,” PA officials are saying they’re being kept in the dark.
A charge has been made by one Israeli official that the discontent on the Palestinian Arab side is keeping the US administration from finalizing the proposal to Israel. Tension between Israel and the US has been reported with regard to the Israeli demand that everything be in writing. According to this official, the US would like to water down the original understanding — removing the promise that no further freeze would be expected of Israel — in deference to Palestinian Arab demands.
And it has gone even further: According to the JPost, “sources close to the issue” are reporting that the Palestinian Arabs are refusing to come to the table even if Israel extends the freeze. The Palestinian Arabs don’t want to come to the table — they want everything handed to them without concessions — and they cannot be happy with a situation that entices Israel to smooth the way to that table.
How convoluted this all is! Has Obama figured out yet how far over his head he is? Probably not.
I make only one prediction here: However this ends up, Israel will be blamed, somehow.
Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu) is one of the clearest-thinking and most straight-talking people in the government. I want to share, straight from Arutz Sheva, what he said in an interview today with regard to this whole mess:
“…the United States doesn’t just want a three month extension, said Landau. When asked why he was opposed to so much benefit for ‘only’ three more months of a building freeze, Landau responded, ‘Israel has failed to learn from the past. President Obama is ignoring previous promises, also written in a letter, that President Bush presented to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Those promises, too, were portrayed as a great diplomatic achievement.
“‘All the American promises share a similar characteristic – they lack specifics, and are not carried out if they are found to be damaging to American interests.’ That was the case with the 2003 letter Bush presented Sharon, ostensibly recognizing Israel’s right to retain the ‘settlement blocs’ in the event of a deal with the PA; in the end, that American promise has been rescinded by President Barack Obama because he has decided it is in American interests to do so.
“’Here too, with the Obama promises, we must see the structure of the deal – and you see that the Americans are demanding that we come to a full agreement with the PA in order for the benefits to kick in,’ Landau explained. ‘You only get the benefits in the event of a final-status agreement – only when everything is over.’ Given the history of Israel-PA negotiations, the likelihood of that happening is ‘very low,’ he added.
“Perhaps even worse, Landau said, the understandings between Israel and the United States – which included American opposition to a unilaterally declared PA state – are apparently no longer extant, and have instead been turned into a ‘sword of Damocles,’ to be held over the head of Israel.
“’Until now, it was understood that the U.S. would veto’ sanctions against Israel, or a non-negotiated settlement of the Middle East conflict. Apparently that has changed, Landau said. ‘the veto was promised and taken as a matter of fact, as long as progress was being made and negotiations were continuing. No “gestures” were required to expect it. Now, the American veto is being used as a threat against our negotiators, pressuring them to surrender our positions. If in a year there is no deal – and it’s unlikely there will be – the threat will descend like a sword on our heads, and the U.S. will blame us’ and vote against Israel, Landau said.”
© 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.