Deja vu all over again: Netanyahu to freeze 'settlement construction' as incentive to 'Palestinians'?settlement freeze.'
If comments attributed to Netanyahu’s National Security Council head Ya’acov Amidror in a Haaretz report on Thursday are correct – that Amidror believes settlement construction is badly hurting support for Israel in the West – then the groundwork is being laid for some kind of curtailment of settlement construction. Not a complete freeze, but some type of construction slow-down.
According to Haaretz, Amidror said recently in private discussions that it was “impossible to explain” settlement construction any place in the world, even in friendly countries like Germany or Canada.
“Construction in the settlements has become a diplomatic problem and is causing Israel to lose support even among its friends in the West,” the article quoted him as saying.
Those comments were leaked just hours after it was announced that he and Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho would be going to the US next week to plan for Obama’s visit. Those types of comments, that type of realization, is sure to be welcome in Washington, which is looking for something from Jerusalem to dangle in front of the Palestinians and thereby bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.
Last Friday, before the announcement of the Obama meeting, The Jerusalem Post reported that among the ideas being discussed as an incentive for the Palestinians to resume negotiations was a settlement freeze outside of Jerusalem and the main settlement blocs.
Although the Prime Minister’s Office denied that Netanyahu was considering this move, it is gaining currency. One official in the Prime Minister’s Office underlined that outgoing minister Dan Meridor, who still has Netanyahu’s ear, publicly called for just such a policy in an Israel Radio interview on Thursday.
According to Meridor, the world questions Israel’s sincerity when it says it favors a two-state solution but continues to build everywhere in the territories, even in areas most assume will be part of a future Palestinian state. He said Israel should continue building in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs – areas he said many in the world have come to realize will remain a part of Israel – but not beyond those areas.Depending upon who is in the coalition, there might actually be enough votes for a freeze that does not include Jerusalem or the 'settlement blocs' (sad but true). But then the construction is mainly taking place in Jerusalem and the 'settlement blocs' anyway. And the conventional wisdom on whether such a freeze is likely to bring the 'Palestinians' back to the table is totally unrealistic.
While there are no guarantees, it is hard to believe that if Netanyahu made such an offer, and Obama and his new Secretary of State John Kerry pushed hard on Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas would reject it. And one of the arguments likely to be used in prodding the Palestinians is that a failure to accept the offer, a continued refusal to reenter talks, could have negative repercussions on an already precarious Jordan.This is amazing. First, Abu Mazen has refused to come to the table for the last four years, during which a 'settlement freeze' was almost always on the table.
Second, Abu Mazen did not come to the table at all except for the 10th month of a 10-month freeze that was broader than the one proposed (it included the 'settlement blocs' and de facto it included Jerusalem), and then only to try to get it extended. Why does anyone think he would change his mind now?
Third, Abu Mazen knows that if he signed an agreement recognizing Israel's 'right to exist,' he'd be dead within six months. Abu Mazen cares about his own self-preservation more than anything else in the world.
And fourth, Jordan? Don't make me laugh. Abu Mazen would like nothing more than to have the 'Palestinians' take over Jordan and hook it up with as much of Israel as he can get under his control. Yes, the US is concerned about Jordan, but that's not going to move the 'Palestinians' who are wallowing in self-pity and could care less about anyone else.
What could go wrong?