Why they aren’t at “the damn table”

Leon Panetta: his fury is misdirected

Leon Panetta: his fury is misdirected

One of the themes of the Obama Administration’s policy is that Israel is responsible for the non-progress of the ‘peace process’ between Israel and the PLO.

For example, last week the US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said this directly:

“I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view,” Panetta said.

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: “Just get to the damn table.”

But yesterday, as if more evidence were needed, a Palestinian Authority/PLO spokesman proudly announced that it was they who did not want to sit at the table with Israel:

The Palestinian Authority reiterated Sunday its opposition to holding direct peace talks with Israel and pointed out that the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – had called for separate negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The PA’s announcement came in response to remarks by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who said last Friday that Israel and the Palestinians must start direct talks before there can be any negotiation on borders and security.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed surprise at Washington’s call for direct talks.

He said that the Quartet called last September for separate talks with the two parties, during which Israel and the Palestinians would present their positions on security and borders…

The PLO official said that the Palestinians would agree to face-to-face talks only when Israel halts all settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 lines as the borders of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. [my emphasis]

Given that this has been the US position since time immemorial, and given that the PLO signed the Oslo agreement which calls for such direct negotiations, Erekat’s expression of surprise is disingenuous. Of course, the PLO has already breached the Oslo agreement by applying to the UN for unilateral statehood, and by allying itself with the unrepentantly terrorist Hamas.

On the other hand, Israel’s PM Netanyahu has called for direct negotiations without preconditions on numerous occasions.

Erekat’s interpretation of the Quartet’s September 23 statement is also disingenuous to the point of outright lying. The statement says that

The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.

It is correct that the Quartet also said that it will convene an international conference “at the appropriate time.” But what doesn’t Erekat understand about “direct bilateral … negotiations without delay or preconditions?”

Israel quite reasonably will not agree to the Palestinian preconditions, insisting that borders, Jerusalem, and the fate of ‘settlements’ are among the issues that must be negotiated. And apparently there are even more preconditions:

The Palestinian Authority is set to demand that the Quartet pressure Israel to release prisoners in fulfillment of a pledge made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, senior Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Monday…

Now the PA wants to present the demand ahead of a possible renewal of negotiations with Israel.  — Ha’aretz, Oct. 26

The Palestinians know that they would have to concede something — security arrangements, recognition of the Jewish state, right of return, end of conflict, etc. — in serious negotiations. They cannot or will not do that, so they prefer to have the US force Israel to give them what they want as preconditions. Then all that will remain to negotiate will be how fast Israel leaves the territories.

And for some reason, the Obama Administration seems to be going along with their plan.

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One Response to “Why they aren’t at “the damn table””

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    How can Panetta’s idiotic remarks be explained? Most likely the U.S. is responding to warning words from one of its Arab or Islamic allies, the Saudis, the Turks, the military regime in Egypt. Panetta is just blowing hot air at a time President Obama is blowing maximum pro- Israel hot air.