So much is opaque these days — with diverse news reports often contradicting each other, and a great deal that remains hidden under the surface.
PA president Abbas stated in an interview last week that there are no plans to declare Palestinian statehood unilaterally. His statement was seen as countering an interview given to Haaretz by Fayyad earlier in April in which he hinted at the possibility of a unilateral declaration.
But other reports indicate that Israel is worried that Abbas indeed might move unilaterally. A lead article on Friday in the JPost written jointly by David Horovitz, editor, and Khaled Abu Toameh declared that “concern is growing among some in the Israeli government that the PA is planning to marginalize the diplomatic process…
“There is a rising conviction among some in the Netanyahu government…that the PA is aiming to secure a new UN Security Council Resolution, updating 1967’s Resolution 242, providing for the establishment of Palestine and fudging the refugee issue.” This Palestinian state, some believe, would not be established to make peace with Israel, but, rather, to continue the conflict from a place of greater strength.
But wait! What is clear to most top level decision-makers in our government is that Abbas is not prepared to negotiate “viable” terms for peace with Israel.
It is what makes the very notion of “peace negotiations” a joke. Thus, embracing Abbas’s willingness to negotiate — which is supposed to be a “relief” for us — at one level constitutes a farce, no more than a game that the world is willing to go along with.
If, indeed, Abbas is planning on a unilateral declaration, he would do it in any event after these negotiations “failed,” with a preface about how he tried, but how Israeli intransigence requires him to resort to other means.
I will return to this in a bit.
The statement by Abbas contradicting the Fayyad position on a unilateral declaration is just one indication that tensions between Abbas — along with his Fatah party — and Fayyad have increased. Fayyad is the independent, the darling of the West, who holds the position he does not because of a solid political base, but because Western funds would dry up if he were not in that position.
But Fatah — which has been glad for the funding and the favor that Fayyad has accrued in the West for the PA — has begun to become restive about this situation: Fayyad is now seen as a threat to Fatah control of the PA. And so reports surfaced recently of a demand by the Fatah Revolutionary Council that the portfolios for interior, finance and foreign affairs, currently held by Fayyad loyalists, be turned over to Fatah members.
Additionally there is unease within Fatah because of indications that Abbas is suffering health problems; the party is demanding that Abbas appoint a deputy president to prevent a power vacuum should he be unable to carry out his duties.
According to Abu Toameh, “Many Fatah officials see Fayyad as a major threat to their faction’s status, and some are convinced that he has his eyes set on the presidency.
“‘Only Fatah will decide who the next president is,’ a member of the Revolutionary Council said, ‘We won’t allow the Americans or the Europeans or the Israelis to choose our president.'”
Abbas, for his part, has now secured the approval of the Arab League to begin those “proximity talks,” and Mitchell will be coming to the area very soon to do the shuttling back and forth.
Perhaps I didn’t lead off with this news because I am decidedly unenthusiastic about it. I see no good coming of this in any event.
In his Friday column, David Horovitz outlined the issues that were holding up these talks. There was more at stake than the hullabaloo about the Ramat Shlomo housing start, even though the impression was commonly given that this was at the heart of the matter. Reports have surfaced regarding a dispute between Israel and the PA regarding the nature of these talks — with Israel having assumed that they would be brief and lead quickly to face-to-face talks, and the PA expecting them to continue in this mode for some months. (Undoubtedly the working assumption of the PA is that the longer the US mediates, the more they can rely on the Americans to pressure Israel.)
Additionally there was the question of core issues and whether they would be discussed in indirect talks, with Israel maintaining these difficult issues could only be dealt with face-to-face.
OK, so now Abbas, having relinquished his right and responsibility as “leader” of the PA to make independent decisions regarding negotiations, has gotten the go-ahead for indirect talks from the obstructionist Arab League. (One commentator noted that it was the League that originally founded the PLO back in 1964, so that this represents a step backward.)
What are we going to see happen as talks are set to begin? Indications are that there have been concessions on the part of our government.
One Israeli official was quoted as saying, “We are willing to discuss the core issues in the framework of the proximity talks, but it has to be only a preliminary discussion of the core issues.”
Oh, I see…
The “core issues” routinely alluded to are Jerusalem, refugees and borders. This official added a demilitarized state and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
As to timing, Israel expresses hope that the movement to direct talks can take place fairly quickly, but it is being acknowledged that this process may proceed for some months.
And what of the issue: the demand that we do no building in eastern Jerusalem?
Our government is still saying that we will be building. And it has been announced that the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee will be convening this week to discuss a “limited number of housing starts” in eastern Jerusalem, although details on where and for whom these houses would be has not been announced.
So, perhaps it indeed is true that we have not frozen all construction for Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem. Indeed, Horovitz, in his column, acknowledges — as have other analysts — that the US may have accepted the fact that this is Netanyahu’s red line and persuaded the PA to enter the talks anyway. (A possibility I advanced recently.)
However, there is a great deal that is still very obscure.
A letter of some sort was sent by Obama to Abbas providing, it is said, certain assurances that made it possible for Abbas to move ahead. The US government will not discuss the contents of this letter. What the PA claims it addresses, including assurances on a construction freeze, is meaningless — in the absence of an American statement they can say what they wish to cover themselves.
Left hanging in the air is the Abbas insistence, even now, that these talks will proceed only if there is no building in eastern Jerusalem.
A few observations with regard to this “peace process” and our prime minister’s role in it:
He professes pleasure in the fact that it’s “moving ahead” and expresses an eagerness to be part of it, all of which is heartburn-inducing.
But what’s crystal clear is that he knows that no “two state solution” is going to result, with peace breaking out. My perception is that all of this is part of his diplomatic style of playing the game, on the precipice of that slippery slope. He wants to be able to say, “See, we did our part, to the utmost, and failure to reach peaceful resolutions must be laid at the door of the PA leaders.” He’s watching over his shoulder — watching Obama and the Quartet, the UN and the EU.
In particular, I would say, he wants this as a foil against possible PA plans for a unilateral announcement. He is attempting to garner sufficient US approval so that it would veto a Palestinian state in the Security Council.
In addition to this, there is the hope that, even if nothing ultimately results, the negotiations will force the PA leaders to focus their energies on this rather than the UN — in essence taking the wind out of their sails.
I — going way out on a limb — cannot help but ponder what would happen if we played it the other way. If we refused to negotiate because the PA is blatantly inciteful, still supports terrorists, etc. etc. And then, if the PA unilaterally declared a state and used it as a base to attack us, we informed the world of the fact that this was illegal according to the Oslo agreement that created the PA, and then went to war and finished it clean.
This, however, will never be Netanyahu’s style.
Here I refer to a recent piece by Daniel Pipes. He has a peace plan, he says. “It’s simple: Israel defeats its enemies.
“Victory uniquely creates circumstances conducive to peace. Wars end, the historical record confirms, when one side concedes defeat and the other wins.”
It should only be!
I call your attention, as well, to an opinion piece by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “Real peace cannot be imposed,” which appeared in the JPost on Friday.
Is he a loose canon, as some suggest? Or, as seems to me more likely, does he speak with sanction from the prime minister?
States Lieberman, “The Great British statesman Edmund Burke once said, ‘Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.’ The Palestinians and Syrians are being taught by the international community that their hypocrisy and inflexibility is costing them absolutely nothing. They reject every gesture and demand ever more concessions.”
After cataloguing failings of the PA that I addressed above, in terms of continued PA glorification of terrorism, he moves to a history lesson on the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia:
“ISRAEL WILL not become another Czechoslovakia and will not succumb to international pressure to compromise its vital interests.”
Ariel Sharon said something similar. Let this government mean it.
The Obama administration this past week has been courting the Jewish community with all sorts of declarations of respect for and devotion to Israel’s wellbeing. There are those, of course, who see in this good things and evidence of a genuine shift in the president’s approach. Our defense minister, just returning from Washington, is one of them.
But I don’t trust Obama even as far as I could throw him. As far as I am concerned, he is responding disingenuously to pressure put upon him, notably by AJC’s Ron Lauder and ADL’s Abe Foxman. The lesson for the American Jewish community is that political pressure works on the president and should be increased.
Here, at last, I provide the link to the Horovitz piece that I’ve referred to in the course of this posting. For he addresses this issue as well, and lays out the continuing failure of the Netanyahu and Obama administrations to see eye-to-eye on important matters regarding “peace”:
“..the plain, unfortunate fact remains that not only are Israel and the Palestinians deeply and predictably at odds, so are Israel and the Obama administration.
“…The most profound difference…relates to the gauging of Abbas’s peacemaking intentions.
“Although it concedes the possibility that Abbas is only entering the proximity talks in order to create a sense of momentum and then blame Israel for an inevitable breakdown, Washington believes Abbas is prepared to endorse viable terms for peace. (Huh?) Jerusalem does not.”
The New York Times reported recently that Obama had suggested the US, if displeased with us, might no longer exercise its veto in the Security Council against anti-Israel resolutions.
However, a senior administration official who spoke to the pan-Arab paper Al-Sharq il-Awsat has denied this. He says the US will continue to defend Israel’s right to self-defense and will continue to stand against selective criticism targeting Israel. While good to learn, this, of course, tells us nothing about a veto of a resolution for a Palestinian state.
With this I end a lengthy posting, mindful that there is a great deal more to explore, and that tomorrow is another day.