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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Is Prime Minister Netanyahu willing to make a deal that accepts a 'Palestinian state'? Is Abu Bluff willing to make a deal that accepts a Jewish state of Israel? Jackson Diehl tries to sort it out.
But it seems at least plausible that Netanyahu was serious when he told his cabinet that he can accept a Palestinian state on two conditions: that Israel is recognized as "the national state of the Jewish people" and that a stringent security regime ensures that "there will be no repetition of what occurred after we left Lebanon and Gaza" -- both of which have been occupied by Iranian-backed militants who, among other things, have deployed thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli cities.

To that I would add a third proviso: Netanyahu wants the implementation of Palestinian statehood to be phased, even if its final terms are agreed upon in advance. Initially at least, Israeli forces would patrol Palestine's eastern border with Jordan, and perhaps some settlements on Palestinian territory would remain in place.

That may or may not be workable. But it's worth noting that Abbas, following his first extended private conversation with Netanyahu in Washington, spent the subsequent days giving interviews to Arab media in which he publicly rejected each of those terms. Palestinians, he said, will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; they will not allow Israeli forces to remain in the West Bank. In fact, if he's pressured to make any concessions, he told the al-Quds newspaper, "I'll grab my briefcase and leave."

Palestinian partisans rush to explain: Abbas says such things only because he is under terrible domestic pressure, not only from Hamas but from the Palestinian "street." But is he? A study of recent Palestinian opinion polls by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy pointed out that 60 percent of Palestinians will accept "mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people." Half say they could tolerate an interim Israeli presence on the Jordanian border "for reasons of security."

Abbas has managed to convince the Obama administration that he is serious about a peace settlement. So perhaps he is. Perhaps, too, Netanyahu -- an acknowledged master of political public relations -- has succeeded in creating an image of his intentions that is the opposite of reality. In any case, both men will soon have to decide whether to deliver on their words.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm hoping... praying... that Netanyahu is calling Abu's bluff.


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