I have been away from my computer for personal reasons– very positive family reasons. I thank G-d for these events, which keep me on mark and sane.
Now that I return to the news, which is something less than wonderful, I find the “re-entry” heavy. Today’s posting will focus on certain key issues, with more to follow soon.
Before the Arab League met last Friday, statements from the US government indicated positive expectations — the hope that the League wouldn’t kill the process by telling Abbas not to come to the table. It was clear that a great deal of lobbying of certain Arab governments had been done.
The outcome, however, is not exactly what Obama had hoped for.
The League decided it would give Obama a month to try to get Israel to extend the freeze. If this effort failed, then it was going to have to meet again and decide what to do next, for Abbas was correct not to negotiate if the Jews were building houses in Judea and Samaria.
People in several quarters read this as a blatant threat: put the screws on Israel and deliver, or else. The best that could be said from the US perspective is that Obama had been cut some slack (who knows, perhaps at his request, when he realized he couldn’t achieve more), so that the time of Arab League reassessment and possibly the final shutdown of the talks would not come until after elections.
What this means, quite clearly, is that the pressure on us will be mounting. Especially in the days immediately after elections. The Arabs are grabbing the opportunity to squeeze us hard.
Whether because of the opposition of members of his coalition; or because — as some reports continue to insist — he knows his reputation for reliability (which is already compromised) would be destroyed if he caved after pledging he would not; or because he knew that what Obama was offering in return was close to worthless, Netanyahu in point of fact has not agreed to resume the freeze. This is enormously important and cause for tentative gladness. We still must watch what happens in the weeks ahead.
Given the veiled threats of the Arab League, caving now would be the worst thing he could do. It would be cooperating with Obama’s attempts to appease the Arabs.
At the opening of the Knesset’s winter session today, Netanyahu said:
“I made this message clear in quiet ways last month, and I am saying it here, now, in public: If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I will be willing to gather my government and ask for another suspension of construction for a limited time.”
I think this was a safe bet, because he knew that the PA response would not be positive. And, indeed it was not: it was rejected out of hand.
Netanyahu also indicated that the US was working on other proposals. Aaron Lerner of IMRA suggests today that, in offering to freeze in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu has agreed in principle to a freeze extension and it’s now a matter of finding his price.
Said the prime minister,”and we are considering [the US proposals] seriously in relation to Israel’s interests, first and foremost security and the promise of continued existence.”
Excuse me? The promise of continued existence? I would most fervently hope so!! Does he intend to suggest that he sees some of the proposals as possibly threatening our existence? Or is he merely trying to demonstrate how careful he’s being on the nation’s behalf?
Nope, not home free yet, by any means.
Aside from Arab League threats, there are those coming from Abbas directly. He has suggested that he might ask the US to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state established within the ’67 lines (Green Line) — and there are reports that he has asked the Arab League to help convince the US to do this. Alternately he has said he might take this to the UN Security Council.
In such a situation, a great deal would depend upon Obama. The policy of the US has been to oppose unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and insist on resolution via negotiations. If he maintains this position, he will both reject requests that the US recognize such a state, and veto it in the SC.
What is more, technically the Security Council should not be able to “recognize” a new state. There is absolutely no precedent for it doing this. As a matter of fact, a SC resolution — #242 of 1967 — says that the borders of Israel must be determined by negotiations (and that Israel requires secure borders beyond the Green Line). And so, this shouldn’t happen.
The problem I see is that there is a tendency today to blithely circumvent rules. Right now, Israel’s response is that this is unrealistic and represents no more than a “mirage”: a way to threaten Israel. Let us hope this is where it stays.
I will be doing some further research on this.
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that concern about possible attempts by the Palestinian Arabs to go for a unilateral declaration of statehood might be fueling Netanyahu’s expressions of enormous, indeed excessive, eagerness to come to the table. It may be that he wants it to be very clear that refusal to continue talks came from the other side, and not us. He wants to be able to say, Look, world, we were ready to sit down and resolve all issues, so don’t force something on us because the other side refused to talk — don’t reward them for their refusal.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are here, seeking to involve themselves in “peace negotiations.” Moratinos said that as the largest donor to the PA, the EU should be more involved in the process. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been angling for this for some weeks now.
Most infuriating of all is what Kouchner said in an interview yesterday with the PA daily Al-Ayyam.
France, said Kouchner, preferred a negotiated settlement for a two-state solution, but an appeal to the Security Council was still a possibility.
“We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations [as a member state]. This is the hope and the desire of the international community, and the sooner that can happen the better..
“The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock [in negotiations]. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option.
“But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations.”
Huh? If the Palestinian state must comes as the result of bilateral negotiations, going to the SC is not an option.
Did he intend this as a threat: We really want to work with you to help resolve the issue via negotiations, but just know, if this doesn’t work, we might support the SC option.
And so, once again, my hero of the hour, no matter that I sometimes disagree with him, is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is so “undiplomatic.”
“I don’t expect you to solve the problems of the world,” he told Kouchner and Moratinos yesterday on their arrival, “but I certainly expect that before you come here to teach us how to solve conflicts, you will deal with the problems in Europe and solve those conflicts.”
After solving the conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus, and after making peace between Serbia and Kosovo, then they can come here “and we will listen to your advice.”
“In 1938, the European community decided to appease Hitler instead of supporting Czechoslovakia and sacrificed [it] without gaining anything. We will not be Czechoslovakia of 2010. We will ensure the security of Israel.”
Was the international community trying to make up for all its failures by pushing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in one year, he wondered. “What about the struggles in Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Sudan?”
Lieberman further said that the results of the efforts of the international community will not bring calm, but likely “an explosion like what happened after Camp David in 2000.”
Even before these representatives of France and Spain arrived on our shores yesterday, our government had expressed displeasure at the official upgrade to “mission” status of the PLO delegations in each of their capitals. It is clear that Washington, which had upgraded its PLO delegation to the status of “delegation general” in July, set the tone for these nations — with France following shortly thereafter and Spain in September.
The message of our government in each instance was that this was giving the Palestinian Arabs a “free prize” at a time when they were not being flexible.