May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us! — Rabbi, in “Fiddler on the Roof”
Mark Landler, in the administration’s favorite newspaper, writes,
WASHINGTON — President Obama, after avoiding a hands-on role in Middle East peacemaking since the setbacks of his first term, plans to plunge back into the effort, his advisers said this week, starting with an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
When he welcomes Mr. Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, these officials said, Mr. Obama will press him to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Later in March, Mr. Obama is likely to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to make the same pitch. The goal, officials said, is to announce the framework, a kind of road map for further talks, by the end of April, the nine-month deadline that Mr. Kerry set last summer for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
In response to the failure of the Kerry mission — Kerry is an object of derision in Israel, while Mahmoud Abbas has referred to his proposals as “insanity” — the administration seems intent on salvaging its latest effort to push Israel out of the territories by bringing in its biggest gun.
This raises the question, yet again, of American priorities. In a world containing Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela, etc., how can forcing Israel to commit suicide be so important as to require direct presidential involvement? We all have our theories.
I think, though, that this development doesn’t bode well. If anything characterized Kerry’s approach, it was naivete. According to Palestinian sources,
The top American diplomat reportedly offered for Abbas to form a Palestinian capital in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina, not all of East Jerusalem, as the Palestinians have demanded.
Kerry also suggested that Israel keep 10 settlement blocs as part of any territorial exchange, according to Al Quds, the most widely read Palestinian daily, on Wednesday.
The Jordan Valley would not be part of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian sources told the paper, nor would there be an international force stationed there. And Kerry reportedly demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Only someone who believes that Abbas and his PLO are actually interested in ending the conflict and living at peace with a Jewish state could propose such ‘radical’ concessions! Yasser Arafat would turn over in his grave if Abbas were to agree to such a framework.
The Palestinian narrative, which is explained every day in their media and schools, implies that all the land between the river and the sea belongs to them. The magnanimous Abbas is prepared to agree to establish a state today in all of Judea and Samaria, including eastern Jerusalem, rather than insisting on all of the land at once. But by no means will this end the conflict, which will continue by diplomatic and legal means, as Abbas has said in English — and by armed struggle, as Palestinian media say daily.
Kerry apparently didn’t understand this. Far better deals, including the re-division of Jerusalem and the evacuation of the Jordan Valley, were rejected by the PLO in 2001 and 2008, mostly because of the refugee issue (recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people means, among other things, that the descendents of refugees do not have a right to ‘return’).
The heart of the impasse between Israel and the PLO has always been the same. Although it is not unimaginable that Israel could have reached an accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs in the early 1990’s, it could not have done so — as events showed — with the PLO, whose very reason for being is opposition to Jewish sovereignty. Unfortunately, the PLO, Hamas and even more extreme elements have been able to suppress any moderate elements, and to establish their rejectionist ideologies as preeminent through their control of media, culture and educational systems. Today there is no partner for an agreement that leaves Israel able to defend herself.
The President will have to bring more than his pretty face to the negotiations if he wants to get the PLO to sign onto some kind of deal. And unfortunately, from what we can glean about his beliefs, particularly when we consider his background and associations, there is reason to think that he will lean more in the direction of the PLO than Kerry apparently has.
The NY Times report seems to suggest that Obama will apply more pressure to Israel to make an even more PLO-friendly deal. It’s hard to see how PM Netanyahu can give up on the only issue that matters.
It’s possible that the ‘framework’ will be so ambiguous as to be vacuous. Nevertheless, such an agreement can give more legitimacy to the PLO, and foreclose Israel’s option to end the process and take unilateral action.
We’ve had the good cop. Now we are going to get the bad cop.