The current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are unlikely to have a "happy ending." It is likely that Palestinians will not even agree to hold direct discussions in the next few months. They can see many advantages in not negotiating. For one thing, if Israel does not renew the settlement construction freeze in September, it will precipitate a major crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. On the other hand, if there is no progress in negotiations, the Israeli government will find it difficult to justify maintaining a freeze on new construction in the settlements.
We cannot see any light at the end of this tunnel for Israel, other than the light that might be generated by a huge diplomatic explosion. The United States reportedly
sent a document to the Palestinian Authority vowing to "blame the appropriate party" if the negotiations fail. Palestinian negotiator Saeeb Erekat announced
that the U.S. will blame Israel. That would entrain an explosion could permanently alienate the United States and world public opinion. It could give the Palestinians a green light for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and it could give the EU, if not the United States, a justification for supporting that declaration. It could be more damaging than an explosion of physical violence. Something must be done to avoid this clear and present danger.
The recent festival of love between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu
should not fool anyone. Nothing has changed in American policy. The American government is opposed to settlements and considers settlement construction an "obstacle to peace." That includes construction of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem under the category of "settlements."
The likely response, if and when there is clearly no progress, is already in the wind. J Street, which usually reflects Obama administration sentiment, has started a "Community of Yes
" Web site. Its message is that the only obstacles to peace in the Middle East are the Israelis and our U.S. supporters.
Never mind that the Palestinians refuse to have direct talks. Never mind that the Palestinian Authority
obviously cannot deliver the consent of the Hamas
to any peace agreement. Never mind either, that whether they are peace partners or not, the Palestinian Authority
has been using U.S. aid to finance vicious anti-Israel propaganda.
Never mind that the Palestinian Authority has not budged from any of it major positions in ten years of negotiations. It still insists on the "Right of Return" for refugees That is also the position of 80% of Palestinians according to a recent poll
. It still refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It still insists that Israel must cede every millimeter of East Jerusalem beyond the 1949 armistice lines. But J Street paints Israel and its supporters as "The Chorus of No." When the negotiations fail, the Obama administration will probably "know" who to blame. If it does not do it in September, it will likely do it December or January.
"Community of Yes" was praised heartily in the anti-Israel lobelog
. In an article entitled "'Community of Yes' Launches Campaign. 'Chorus of No' Steals the Day," Eli Clifton opined that the Obama administration reconciliation with Israel
was somehow a BAD THING that helped the "Chorus of No," as it included such sinister and evil points as U.S. backing for direct negotiations and assurances about Iran. Evidently the "received opinion" is that the Iranian atom bomb project is good for peace in the Middle East, while direct negotiations between the parties are not.
To counter this eventuality, the Israeli government needs to do much more than get some photo-ops with President Obama and a pat on the shoulder. It needs to prove who is really in the "Chorus of No." It needs to get the message out about Palestinian stonewalling. If Israel really believes that incitement is an important issue, the government needs to show that it is serious. It must declare that it won't negotiate while the Palestinian Authority continues to praise terrorists and name buildings after them, and to teach children that Haifa is a city in "Palestine."
Israel must also refrain for a while from senseless "in your face" confrontations with the United States that have only internal political value. Thirty-two Jewish families in Hizmah or even 1,600 more in Ramat Shlomo are not going to decide the fate of Jerusalem in the immediate future. Such actions only serve to generate angry protests from Palestinians, that are inevitably backed by the United States. How can it help us to force the United States to support the Palestinian position in public? We waited 2000 years to build in Jerusalem. We can wait another three months or even another thirty years if need be.
But not doing harm is not enough. Israel needs to launch a broad peace offensive. The Palestinian proposals may be both obnoxious and unrealistic, but at least everyone understands what they want and how they define peace. The Israeli government must publish a reasonable peace plan, one that we can live with, and that the Americans will accept as fair. Whether Palestinians are peace partners or not, we certainly will benefit if we can get the United States and EU to back a peace plan that is acceptable to Israel. Israel is prevented from publishing such a plan apparently, because of considerations related to the governing political coalition, not because of any considerations of state. One of the most contentious issues is Jerusalem. Officially, the government proclaims again and again its absolute commitment to United Jerusalem
, including all the Arab neighborhoods. It is not likely we will get the United States or any other country to back this policy. No major power recognizes Israeli claims in any part of Jerusalem. We can't even get the United States to move their embassy there. Unofficially, Netanyahu recently stated
, "Everybody knows that there are Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that under any peace plan will remain where they are..."
The implication is that some Jewish neighborhoods might not remain a part of Israel. It was a public concession offered for free, without any quid pro quo
. Netanyahu went too far. It would have been enough to state that Israel will insist that all Jewish neighborhoods remain a part of Jerusalem. It shows firstly that Israeli policy is so confused that even Netanyahu cannot be consistent in presenting it. If that is the case, how can we expect anyone else to know what it is? Secondly, it shows that behind the front of inflexibility, there is a profound willingness to make peace that is being kept secret for some reason. An official brief peace plan, one that everyone can understand, will serve to set the record straight. It can be a rallying point for those who are interested in improving Israel's image, as well as an important tool of diplomacy.
Before Netanyahu's visit to the United States, Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged Netanyahu
to present a peace plan to President Obama:
"Israel must...present [to Obama] a clear initiative that discusses drawing a border in Israel in a way that settlement blocs along the border will remain in our hands and have a solid Jewish majority for generations, but in a way that will enable the establishment of an independent and demilitarized Palestinian state."
I will go further. Israel must present such an initiative to the world and to the Palestinian public as well as the Palestinian leaders, not just as a confidential message to President Obama. It will tell the world that Israel is part of the "Chorus of Yes," and anyone who opposes the plan is part of the "Chorus of No."
If both the Hamas and the Palestinian authority, by some miracle, were to accept this plan, it would be wonderful. If not, at least there will be a chance of showing who is really the "Community of Yes," and who is the "Chorus of No."
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Replies: 2 Comments
Israel has had years to publish a peace plan and the associated proposal maps that you speak of.
Instead of doing that, Israel insists that negotiations shall be entirely secret and secured away from public view.
In fact, Netanyahu has just demanded -and apparently has won -a concession that the coming direct talks will be so private that no American or Quartet observers will even be allowed in the room. -And to secure the room from potential surveilance, the critical negotiations shall be in Israel.
What is he hiding? What is he so ashamed of? What truth is so abhorrent that no one must know?
And if these talks fail, the public will never have first-hand knowledge of why or at what point they collapsed. The public will not know enough to arrive at it's own conclusions.
But worry not, Bibi will be only too happy to tell us which party is to blame.
This is the world's biggest con-job.
Kiev500, Sunday, August 22nd
Ami - nothing Israel does or doesn't do in the next few months is going to change the fact peace is not going to happen in our lifetime. Without a revolution in Arab thinking, the prospects of a peace agreement happening in the near future are absolutely zero. And Abu Bluff's new conditions on direct talks are simply more proof such a change is in fact not happening. Just the exact opposite.
And it is not Israel that is holding up peace in the Middle East today.
NormanF, Sunday, July 18th
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