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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Netanyahu meets with Jordan's Abdullah

Prime Minister Netanyahu held an unannounced meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah on Tuesday. The goal of the meeting was apparently to convince Abdullah to support direct talks between Israel and the 'Palestinians.'
A statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office described the two-hour Netanyahu-Abdullah meeting as having been “indepth,” and said that the two men discussed ways to conduct “direct, effective and serious” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians “on all issues, in order to reach a “stable, secure and sustainable” agreement based on “two states for two peoples.”

A similar statement was released by the Jordanians.

Netanyahu, according to the statement, said after the meeting that Abdullah’s leadership was important to further peace and stability in the region.

Netanyahu also said he intended to strengthen the ties between the two countries.

Since Netanyahu’s election, the public tone of Jordanian- Israeli relations has deteriorated, even as – according to Israeli diplomatic officials – security and intelligence cooperation has remained strong.

Tuesday’s meeting comes three months after Abdullah, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said that “for the first time since my father made peace with Israel, our relationship with Israel is at an all bottom low. It hasn’t been as bad as it is today and as tense as it is today.”

According to Israeli officials, Tuesday’s talks focused on three areas: the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, the Iranian threat, and bilateral economic issues.

Netanyahu reiterated to Abdullah, according to Israeli sources, his oft-articulated position that in any future arrangement, an Israeli presence would remain on the Jordanian border.

Netanyahu encouraged Abdullah to cooperate in bilateral economic projects, including train links between the countries. It was agreed that one of Netanyahu’s top economic advisers will go to Jordan and discuss the issue.
National Union MK Aryeh Eldad was extremely critical of Netanyahu.
“Netanyahu is willing to give up land just to get direct talks,” Eldad said. “His views have changed completely. Two years ago no one would have believed that he would go to Jordan to ask King Abdullah to help him form a Palestinian state not in Jordan, but in the Land of Israel.”
Netanyahu is walking a fine line. He is trying to isolate the 'Palestinians,' get Obama to shift focus from the 'Palestinians' to Iran, and all while giving the 'Palestinians' nothing substantive. He may well be succeeding on the first and third goals. Israel Radio just reported (as I'm drafting this post) that we can add the European Union's Middle East envoy, Miguel Morantinos, to the list of people backing direct talks, and that the 'Palestinians' plan to ask the Arab League on Thursday to approve the continuation of the 'proximity talks' while banning direct talks unless Israel signs everything away in writing in advance. It's not clear whether the 'Palestinians' will get that approval from the Arab League; if they don't, they will be even more isolated and Abu Bluff will be left with little choice but to go to direct talks.

On the other hand, just like Netanyahu is trying to call their bluff, they are trying to call his. What happens when Abu Bluff says "yes" to direct talks, without conditions, and they get into a room and Obama backs the 'Palestinians' claim for the 1949 armistice line borders subject to 'minor swaps'? What happens when Netanyahu offers less than Olmert or Barak offered and Obama says "not good enough"? And by the way, does anyone really think that Obama's focus has shifted from the 'Palestinians' to Iran? So Aryeh Eldad's fears are definitely in place.

The only way Netanyahu can win this game is by having the 'Palestinians' blow up the talks so badly that no one can think about going back to them until at least after the 2012 US elections. And to have the 'Palestinians' do that before November 2 when Obama will once again be free to pressure Israel. That's a tall order.


At 2:16 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - it assumes the Palestinians want peace with Israel. Israel would do well to keep world attention focused on what they're not doing rather than on what Israel does. The Palestinians throughout their history have usually been their own worst enemy. And that looks nowhere near to changing in the future.


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