Monday, August 19, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Abbas and Palestinian Arabs Looking For Excuse To Backtrack On Peace Talks

From Arlene Kushner:
August 19, 2013


Right now we are encountering ironies in a variety of situations, both predictable and unexpected. 
Among the predictable we have the behavior of the Palestinian Authority/PLO.  Once negotiations, which were supposed to be conducted under cover of a media blackout, started, I guessed that we'd be hearing from the Palestinian Arabs before long.  It took about 24 hours before Abbas announced at a press conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in Ramallah that the first session had addressed all key issues, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, security and prisoners. 
That was quick. It seems rather surprising that all these issues could have been addressed in just one session. But never mind.  The Palestinian Arabs were off to a start, with regard to talking publicly about the talks.  This is their style:  Not quiet, steady sustentative negotiations, but negotiations via public opinion.
Yesterday, there was a PLO Executive Committee meeting chaired by Abbas in Ramallah  And the tone was uncompromisingly tough.  Well, actually, uncompromising is their default position, this had an edge of hostile belligerency:
The peace talks, they said, were merely a "political cover for the implementation [by Israel] of the largest settlement project."
The Israeli government, went the statement, was undermining "all prospects for peace."
"The PLO Executive Committee considers the unprecedented settler decisions which were announced by the occupation government as conclusive proof that Israel’s first and last option remains expansionism, Judaization and theft of Palestinian land, and not ending occupation and implementing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders."
I'm never able to read about PA/PLO charges that Israel is guilty of "Judaization" of the land without laughing. Folks, this IS Jewish land.  All of it.  Historically, legally.  And even if Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem were not clearly Jewish -- which they are -- these areas wouldn't be "Palestinian."  There has never been a "Palestinian" entity.  Any claim would be by Jordan, which was on the other side of the "1967 border," actually the 1949 armistice line.
But what does factual reality have to do with this?  The Palestinian Arabs never let it get in their way.
And here we get to the interesting part in the statement by PLO leaders (emphasis added):
"We hold the US administration responsible for stopping these Israeli war crimes and attempts to foil the peace process. The last settlement steps contradict assurances that the Palestinian Authority received during preparatory talks for launching the negotiations...

“Israel’s practices will prompt the Palestinian leadership to demand the intervention of international courts and institutions against these war crimes, racist acts and violations of all international laws and conventions."
Well now.  It seems that, as long as they are demonstrating total lack of regard for fact anyway, they figure they might as well shoot for the greatest hyperbole, the most vile of accusations against Israel.  "war crimes"?  "violations of all international laws and conventions"?  Because we announced that we are putting out tenders to build some apartments?
I do not believe there is a single leader in the international community who can take these clowns seriously.  What this tells us, it seems to me, is that those who continue to support PA "rights" are, in the main, more concerned with damaging Israel than with responding to a legitimate Palestinian Arab position.
And Kerry? Kerry is interested in the "victory" of having advanced the "peace process" and the way in which this will advance his career and accrue international esteem.  Or so he imagines.
When the Israeli tenders for building were announced, Kerry had made it imminently clear that there had been no commitment by Israel to halt construction, and that there should be no surprise about the building.  And, he also made clear, Abbas knew this going into negotiations.  What was obvious at that point was that Netanyahu had advised Kerry that he would arrange for the release of prisoners, as this was Abbas' bottom line, but that he could pull this off only if he made his people happy by announcing building.
But now, the PLO leaders are saying that the announcements of these building tenders "contradict assurances that the Palestinian Authority received during preparatory talks for launching the negotiations."
Are the PLO leaders so blatant in their defiance that they are going head-to-head with Kerry in a total lie?  Or is something else happening?
I can imagine -- it's much in his MO as I've come to understand it -- that Kerry might have said something to Abbas like, "Look, I cannot get the Israelis to freeze building. But you know that the US is opposed to the settlements, and I give you my word that we'll do all that we can to keep the building to an absolute minimum."

John Kerry and Abbas
John Kerry and Abbas. Despite Abbas show, Kerry did tell him
 there would be building in settlements. Credit: Wiki Commons
Photo not part of original article.
It's likely that we'll likely never know if Kerry whispered such words to Abbas.  But it probably doesn't matter.  What we're seeing is a PLO that is totally disgruntled and feels what? humiliated, angry at the prospect of continuing talks while Israel is building.  Remember, Abbas as putative head of the PA, went ahead without the go-ahead from the PLO in the first place.  Never mind that the PA and PLO are so incestuously intertwined that he also sits as head of the PLO.
And so they're now announcing the possibility of going to international agencies.
According to an Israeli official cited by the JPost:
"The understanding reached before the commencement of the current talks did not include a settlement freeze, and the Palestinians know that full well.  But they did include a Palestinian commitment to abstain from going to international institutions, and if they follow through on this threat, that would be a violation of understandings reached."
Let us not forget that this was a major goal of Kerry's in getting the two sides to the table before September -- to keep the PA from going to the UN in a unilateral move.
Whether the PA (Abbas) will really go to the UN on this remains to be seen.  This might just as easily be a threat -- part of the classic PA MO -- in the hopes of getting Kerry to pressure Israel to stop building.
But what we know with total certainty -- and all those analysts who have their heads screwed on properly warned of this -- is that the PA is not ready for compromise and will not proceed in good faith with talks.  At some point, PA leaders will look for the excuse that will allow them to bow out.
If Abbas decides to play it by going to the UN or international courts, Israel would be incredibly foolish and self-defeating to continue to sit at the table.  And so, either way...
It is a reasonable prediction that in the end, Kerry -- who pushed parties, who are impossibly far apart on the issues, to come to the table -- will have shown himself to be too smart by half.
On the issue of Palestinian Authority participation in peace talks, see what Khaled Abu Toameh says (emphasis added):
"At the request of the Palestinian Authority leadership, the first round of peace talks with Israel, which was launched in Jerusalem on August 14, was held away from the media spotlight.

"The Palestinian Authority leadership requested that no journalist or photographer be permitted to cover the meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

"Even the location of the peace talks was kept a secret, again at the request of the Palestinian Authority leadership.

"The Palestinian Authority's request for secrecy in the peace talks does not stem from its desire to secure the success of the negotiations.

"The main reason the Palestinian Authority does not want the media to cover the peace talks is related to its fear of the reactions of Palestinians and the Arab world.

"Mahmoud Abbas is already facing widespread opposition among Palestinians to his controversial decision -- which was taken under heavy pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry -- to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

"It is not as if the Palestinian Authority is saying: We care so much about the peace talks that we prefer to avoid media coverage in order to make sure that the peace process succeeds

"A photo of Erekat and Livni standing together in Washington has since been exploited by Facebook and Twitter activists to hurl insults and profanity at the chief Palestinian negotiator.

"Palestinian sources in Ramallah said that Erekat felt so offended by the insults and obscene language directed against him that he decided that there was no need for 'photo op' with Livni or any other Israeli.

"Both Abbas and Erekat are fully aware of the growing opposition among Palestinians and Arabs to the resumption of the peace talks with Israel under the terms of the US Administration.

"That is why the two men do not want to be seen sitting in a room with any Israeli representative. They know that any photo of Erekat and Livni shaking hands or sitting together would provide their enemies with additional ammunition.

"Those who think that the opposition to the peace talks is coming only from Hamas and other radical groups are either ignorant or turning a blind eye to the reality...

"To further complicate matters for Abbas and Erekat, several Palestinian factions are now in the process of forming a 'national alliance' the main goal of which is to thwart any deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This rejectionist front will consist of various PLO and other factions and organizations and could create many problems for the Palestinian Authority.

"But there is another reason why the Palestinian Authority leadership does not want media coverage of the peace talks. For many years, the Palestinian Authority has been supporting boycott campaigns against Israel, as well as organizations combating 'normalization' with Israelis.

"If Palestinian children are condemned for playing football with Israelis, why should it be acceptable for Erekat to be talking with Livni?"
Good luck, John Kerry!
An unexpected irony is with regard to Egypt.
Two days ago, the NYTimes -- the anti-Israel mouthpiece for the Obama administration -- accused Israel of "undercutting" an American message to Gen. al-Sisi that was designed to "defuse" the situation in Egypt and prevent violence.
But any notion by Obama that the US might have forged a compromise, in the spirit of cooperative democracy, that would have forestalled the current situation was a pipedream.  It wasn't going to happen. 
The Times charged Israel with assuring al-Sisi that he didn't have to compromise because the US wouldn't really follow through on threats to cut off financial support.
Israel denies having done this.
In point of fact, cutting of funds would likely bring Egypt to a far greater disaster than we are currently seeing, leading to an indecisive civil war that might cause the implosion of Egypt as a functioning state. 
This is well understood here in Israel. And what Israeli leaders have done is to lobby Western governments not to levy punitive actions against the military regime.
As the JPost today cited on Israeli official:
"The name of the game right now is not democracy. The name of the game is that there needs to be a functioning state. After you put Egypt back on track, then talk about restarting the democratic process there."
Said this official, the present reality is that the only actor that can assert authority in Egypt and keep it from descending into chaos is the military.  "Like it or not, no one else can run the country right now...You can scold Sisi all you wish, but at the end of the day, you want a functional government to rule the country."
As is not infrequently the case, Israeli leaders "get" the situation far better than Western leaders do.  Will the Western governments paid heed?  I'm not sure.  But there is an exquisite irony for me in the current situation.
Israeli leaders are addressing the realities as they see them.  But who would have imagined a few months ago that it would be Israel defending the Egyptian regime.  Quite a turn-around.  And, it is to be hoped, we will see a whole new dynamic between Jerusalem and Cairo.  Hints of this already exist. 
Yesterday's posting was so heavy, I wanted to end today with a link to a video that shines a very positive and uplifting light on Israelis.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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