Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Looks Like Abbas Gets The Dead Cat This Time Around

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “managed to leave the dead cat at the doorstep of both the Obama Administration and [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator who is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Ben Smith, In blame game, arrow tilts to Abbas

Writing about Abbas giving in to pressure and coming to the peace table, Evelyn Gordon notes A Lesson for the Future in Abbas’s Retreat on Refusing to Talk:
[A]fter months of proclaiming that he would not resume talks with Israel without a complete freeze on Israeli construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has backed down. And this offers a crucial lesson for the future.

“The reason Abbas was willing to move his red line was because he came under intense pressure from the US, certain elements inside the EU, and from Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan to start talks, even though all his conditions were not met,” [Jerusalem Post's Herb] Keinon noted [here]. “The valuable lesson here: The Palestinians, too, and not only Israel, are susceptible to pressure.”
The fact that Keinon is right can be adduced from the fact that both Keinon and Gordon wrote this six months ago in March.

Between then and now, there were indications that they were wrong, as evidenced by the pressure applied on Netanyahu by Obama and his administration. But now it seems not only that they were justified, but--as Jonathan S. Tobin writes--one may even ask: Has Liberal Washington Figured Out the Palestinians?
[S]omething interesting is happening in Washington as the peace talks promoted by Obama have foundered on the question of whether Israel will agree to renew a freeze on settlements as a precondition for the Palestinians’ continued presence at the table: Israel isn’t being blamed for the mess.

Some in the administration and even the established media have stumbled upon the fact that, as Ben Smith wrote yesterday in Politico, the problem is “the Palestinian insistence that one issue — settlements — be resolved before talks can begin.” This means that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now feeling some of the heat reserved last year for Netanyahu, and facing the prospect that if he fulfills his promise to withdraw from talks, he will bear the full blame for their collapse.” Smith even quotes Palestinian propagandist Hussein Ibish as admitting that the “onus is on the Palestinians not to walk away.”
Of course, if Abbas does his part and stays--will that just engender new demands on Netanyahu to 'reward'  Abbas for having done the minimal that one normally expects of a peace partner?

But before we even get to that point, we are now waiting for Abbas to meet with the Arab League on October 4th to help him decide what he will do next.

The last time he met with them about whether to attend the peace talks, the Arab League responded with a resounding "do whatever you want":
Arab League foreign ministers on Thursday authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, but left it up to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to decide on the timing.[emphasis added]
No matter what the Arab League says this time, the fact remains that the ball is in Abbas's court--and there is only so much longer that he can run out the clock.

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