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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How Peres duped Israel again

Take this with a grain of salt, because it is the Sunday Times of London, but Shimon Peres, who negotiated the Oslo Accords behind Yitzchak Rabin's back, played a major role in the current 'negotiations' getting started, apparently behind Binyamin Netanyahu's back. This was behind a paywall, but I got it by email.
SECRET talks in the Jordanian capital, Amman, earlier this year between Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, paved the way for last week’s breakthrough agreement to restart the dormant Middle East peace process, it emerged yesterday.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, announced on Friday that after an intense round of shuttle diplomacy he had “established a basis” to resume direct talks for the first time since negotiations collapsed in acrimony in 2010.

Kerry warned of “the difficult road ahead” but added that the go-ahead showed both sides “had recognised that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks”.

These will commence in Washington “within the next week or so”.

They should in turn lay the foundations for face-to-face negotiations between Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Abbas over the next few months.

To avoid a repeat of the last, failed attempt at peace talks, which collapsed after only 16 hours, the Americans have received assurances from both sides they will talk for at least six months.

As a confidence-building measure, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence and strategic affairs minister, announced yesterday that “hardcore prisoners” would be released in answer to a long-standing Palestinian demand.

Their release will prove unpopular in Israel, where many of the prisoners are regarded as hardened terrorists.

But Steinitz added that Israel had resisted other Palestinian demands, such as a freeze on the construction of new settlements or defining the border according to lines established before the Six-Day War in 1967.

The Amman meetings, which took place two months ago, laid the basis for the new talks. Peres, 90, the architect of the 1992 Oslo peace accord, convinced Abbas, 78, to accept that West Bank settlers and Jewish residents of East Jerusalem could remain in their settlements but be subject to the Palestinian state.

According to sources on both sides, Peres put pressure on Abbas to accept this condition as the minimum that he needed to convince Netanyahu to give his blessing to the talks.

Israel’s chief negotiator at the Washington talks will be Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, while the Palestinian side will be led by Saeb Erekat, a veteran negotiator.

Livni posted an elated message on her Facebook page: “Four years of political stagnation are coming to an end.”

News that the talks were resuming was greeted warmly in Israel by centrist and left-wing politicians. The reaction of the Palestinian Fatah party was largely muted with officials insisting “there are still issues to be solved”.

Hamas, the militant movement that controls Gaza, nevertheless rejected the talks outright. “He [Abbas] has no authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, its spokesman.

It remains to be seen whether any possible deal on the table could be acceptable to the current Israeli government or the Palestinian people.

“Netanyahu faces bitter opposition within his party to any idea of extensive withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state,” said a leading member of his Likud party.

He predicted the prime minister would need to put any agreement reached in Washington to a referendum in order to bypass opposition within Likud and the Knesset.

Among the strongest opponents of a Palestinian state is Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, Netanyahu’s defence minister.

Ya’alon wrote in his autobiography that the Palestinians do not want a two-state solution but an Arab state built “on the ruins of the state of Israel”.

Ya'alon has it right. And that's precisely the problem. How many Israelis buy into Peres' delusions, and how many more delusions will he be able to force on our politicians?

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