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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Abu Bluff tries to save face

With the results of Tuesday's special election in Massachusetts being bad news for President Obama, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen is left with two choices: Continue to sit on the sidelines and run the risk that the 'Palestinian people' grow impatient at the lack of 'progress,' or find a way to climb down the tree up which President Obama sent him before pulling away the ladder.

There's just one problem: To a 'Palestinian,' nothing is more important than his 'honor.' Not only does Abu Mazen want to climb out of that tree so that he can get back to having the Obama administration wring concessions out of Israel for him, he has to do it without compromising his 'honor.' Apparently, salvaging Abu Bluff's 'honor' also requires humiliating Netanyahu. So the de facto freeze that Netanyahu has imposed on construction in 'east' Jerusalem just isn't going to be enough.

Enter US Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell who returns to our region on Thursday. Mitchell is going to press Netanyahu to agree to a wee little freeze in 'east' Jerusalem of 3-6 months - exactly the length of the freeze Netanyahu had originally been prepared to give in Judea and Samaria. And hopefully after what happened yesterday, Netanyahu is going to find the you-know-whats to just say no. Maybe.
The Palestinian Authority is pushing Israel to agree to a total construction freeze, in both the settlements and east Jerusalem, of between three to six months, something senior Israeli officials said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not agree to, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

This is one idea that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to raise during talks with Netanyahu on Thursday.


The call for a complete freeze, including in Jerusalem, for a short period is viewed as an attempt by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to return to negotiations without "losing face," since he has said repeatedly that he would not begin discussions with Israel before there was a total halt to construction beyond the June 4, 1967 lines.


"This is not going to happen; it goes against everything Netanyahu says and believes in," one source in the Prime Minister's Office said about even a symbolic freeze in Jerusalem.

The source also dismissed as completely unrealistic the idea that Netanyahu could agree to an unofficial halt to Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, meaning that although he would not announce anything publicly, new building in the capital beyond the pre-Six Day War lines would stop for a certain amount of time.

In addition to being against Netanyahu's world view, the official said, an unofficial freeze would also be unsustainable, since the news of any such informal agreement would inevitably be leaked and cause Netanyahu severe political damage.
Except that three months ago, Netanyahu wasn't going to agree to any kind of freeze in Judea or Samaria either. And there was a de facto freeze in Jerusalem until Housing Minister Ariel Attias raised the alarm bells, and there continues to be a de facto freeze in Jerusalem except for the 700 housing units approved by the United States. So I would not count on Netanyahu not to go against his ostensible 'worldview' yet again.

But it gets worse. On Tuesday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Storr met in Jerusalem with representatives of the 'Palestinian Authority.' That's a violation of the Oslo Accords - which constitute the entire basis for the 'Palestinian Authority's existence. The Oslo Accords stipulated that the 'Palestinian Authority' would not undertake any political activities in Jerusalem. Anywhere in Jerusalem.

From 1993 until 2001, Israel did not enforce that provision of the Oslo Accords. But in August 2001, in response to the suicide bombing at Sbarro Pizza in Jerusalem, Israel closed Orient House, where most of the political activity was taking place, and except for a brief attempt to reopen that facility in February 2008, there has not been any official 'Palestinian Authority' political activity in Jerusalem. Until Tuesday.

There has been no reaction from the Netanyahu government to Tuesday's meeting with the Norwegian Foreign Minister in Jerusalem. The silence is deafening. And the Fatah terror organization is continuing its efforts to carry on diplomatic activity in Jerusalem.
The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has launched an initiative to expand its activities in Israel’s capital. The American-backed PA is increasing its political presence in Jerusalem and investing in a public relations campaign to include the Jewish holy city in the new synthetic Arab state they intend to establish in Judea and Samaria.
Will Netanyahu allow this activity to continue so that Abu Mazen can 'save face' and still come back to the table? That's what Mitchell will suggest on Thursday.

And what is the purpose of getting Abu Mazen back to the table? This is from Yossi Alpher, who is very much in the 'peace camp.'
The real question should be not whether the talks will be renewed, but rather, why? Why do the US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia want negotiations to resume when they are doomed to failure and when failure, meaning a new crisis, could significantly worsen the situation? Why insist on negotiations rather than face up to the strategic realities?

The first and most obvious of these is the three-state reality. There is little near-term prospect that Abbas will succeed in bringing Gaza and Hamas back into the fold of a single Palestinian partner for Israel. Hence he can negotiate only on behalf of the West Bank. But Gaza won't go away: Hamas can easily sabotage an Abbas-Netanyahu peace process with a few sustained rocket barrages, while neither Egypt nor Israel appears to have a viable strategy for dealing with it.

The second reality is that, when he does negotiate, Abbas is certain to table a set of demands on issues like refugees, Jerusalem and borders that Netanyahu cannot and will not meet. Back in late 2008, then-PM Ehud Olmert's very far-reaching proposals for final status were turned down by Abbas; Netanyahu is hardly likely to match even that abortive peace plan.

The third reality is that the Palestinians are currently embarked on their most, indeed only, successful state-building enterprise since the Oslo process began in 1993, and it is largely a unilateral process: building, with international help, security, economic and governance institutions on the West Bank. In the course of the past year, we have seen that negotiations--particularly frustrating and fruitless negotiations--are not necessary to sustain a positive state-building process that in fact dovetails to some extent with Netanyahu's "economic peace" approach. This is especially so, given that the state-building process is spearheaded by PM Salam Fayyad, an independent, while negotiations would be with the PLO, which doesn't represent Fayyad.

The fourth reality is that Netanyahu is hardly an enthusiastic candidate for negotiating a two-state solution. Ehud Olmert was eager and generous in his proposals, for all the good it did him. Netanyahu has grudgingly embraced the two-state solution and will offer no concessions on Jerusalem. His governing coalition has numerous strong ties to the settler movement. And he is offering little of substance to persuade Kadima to join him in a more moderate coalition. He seems to be counting on the Palestinians to disappoint everyone; or on the Americans to become so deeply embroiled elsewhere in the region that they'll abandon the process; or on his own limitless aspiration to manipulate everyone all of the time. Netanyahu is the quintessential politician who lives from day to day: every day celebrated without getting hopelessly entangled in a peace process that damages his welcome in Washington and with his own constituency is a victory; nothing else is important.
In summary, the Obama administration refuses to face the reality that 'peace' is not likely to break out between Israel and the 'Palestinians' during the President's first term in office. Therefore, it pressures Prime Minister Netanyahu for concessions that he knows he should not make, but like the drunk who is going to have just one more drink, Netanyahu may well make one more concession. Abu Bluff continues to play his game, conceding nothing and insisting on everything to save his 'honor.'

What could go wrong?


At 8:26 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

Is the following not just a repeat of history Carl? Obama might very well hell-bent against all odds but he is not the first. I ask, should we be surprised? Obama merely picked up the gauntlet and happens to be running a little faster and more blindly then those before him...

You stated:

In summary, the Obama administration refuses to face the reality that 'peace' is not likely to break out between Israel and the 'Palestinians' during the President's first term in office. Therefore, it pressures Prime Minister Netanyahu for concessions that he knows he should not make, but like the drunk who is going to have just one more drink, Netanyahu may well make one more concession. Abu Bluff continues to play his game, conceding nothing and insisting on everything to save his 'honor.'

Caving in to pressure from the freaking Islamic world coupled with innate Antisemitism is the fuel that keeps the wheels of peace at any cost moving. The fact that it is easier to forgo Jews/Israel by throwing us to the wolves in favor of those whose pledge against Jews/Israel is written in stone.

Reality has nothing to do with this, except the reality of our standing.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its really about keeping the charade going to allow Abu Bluff and Obama to save face. No one really expects any breakthrough now or ever.


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