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Friday, July 02, 2010

An extension of the 'freeze' for direct talks?

One of the things that seems likely to come out of Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama this week is a trade: In return for direct talks with the 'Palestinians,' Prime Minister Netanyahu will extend the freeze in Judea and Samaria for some period of time (at the conclusion of which he will be pressured to extend it again, since undoubtedly the talks will be going so well). Politically, Netanyahu cannot extend the freeze without getting something in return - direct talks are 'something.' And 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen cannot open direct talks without getting something in return - an extension of the freeze is 'something.'

The question is what will happen regarding Jerusalem. Abu Mazen keeps insisting on a freeze in Jerusalem (since he cannot be less 'Palestinian' than President Obama), but he may be willing to make due with the de facto freeze that is currently in effect. The US will almost certainly push him in that direction.

In any event, as I predicted numerous times, it appears that the freeze will be extended for some period of time beyond its September 26 expiration.
The Palestinians will have to move to direct negotiations for Israel to extend its settlement moratorium, a top Israeli negotiator said ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House meeting Monday.

“Without direct talks, there’s no way he can extend the moratorium,” Mike Herzog – who until recently served as Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s chief of staff, in which capacity he frequently consulted with Obama administration officials ahead of high-level visits – said of Netanyahu.

Steven Hadley, the national security adviser in former president George W. Bush’s second term, also guessed that the issue of the moratorium would figure prominently in talks between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.

“My hunch is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for an excuse to extend the construction ban, and I think direct talks is a good one,” Hadley said, appearing alongside Herzog at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy forum Thursday.

He added, “I also think he will not get to direct talks unless he extends the construction ban, because I don’t see how [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas comes into direct talks without it.”


Both Herzog and Hadley predicted that difficulties between Israel and the US would arise in the fall given developments in these and other issues, but they said that in the short term, next week’s meeting would go well.

“I think both Israel and the US are determined to make this visit a success,” Herzog said.

Hadley agreed: “I think this meeting will restore and strengthen trust between Israel and the United States, both as two countries but also as two leaders.”

He said that after the recent “tensions” between the two countries, the US was trying to alleviate some of Israel’s sense of alienation, “particularly by speaking to Israel in the language of security.”
Read the whole thing.

As of Friday afternoon, it had not yet been decided whether Defense Minister Ehud Barak would go along for trip to Washington. Here's hoping he stays home.


At 6:53 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

My guess is Obama will probably push Abu Bluff to give Israel a fig leaf in return for a continued freeze on the revanants.

That feeze is not going to any time soon.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Hatfield said...

Why should Israel care about direct talks? Israel should insist on certain conditions be met by the PA before direct talks, like, ceasing all incitement on PA TV and in PA run mosques; cease naming squares and streets after murderers and rename those already so named. I'm sure there are a few other conditions.


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