Citing “Palestinian sources,” Ynet reports the Palestinians expect their own package of U.S. guarantees and financial incentives to persuade them to return to talks intended to give them a state:
The sources added that the American commitments would include setting the Palestinian state’s borders within three months and solving the refugee problem, including compensation through an international fund comprised of most of the region’s countries (including Israel). The sources also said that the American list of commitment[s] would include financial and diplomatic aid in exchange for returning to the direct negotiations.
At yesterday’s State Department news conference, Spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to confirm that something is being considered beyond merely restarting the talks (when a question has to be repeated to Crowley three times, you know he is withholding something):
QUESTION: … I’m just wondering, why does the Administration think that three months is enough time to get enough done on borders?
MR. CROWLEY: Well … all I will tell you is that we remain intensely engaged with the parties to try to get them back into negotiations. …
QUESTION: Yeah, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you think that three months is enough time to get some kind of progress on borders done, that keeps the process alive.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m just emphasizing that our first step here in the process is to get them back in negotiations. Once we get them back into negotiations, we’ll have a better view of how to get from where we are now to an ultimate agreement.
QUESTION: Well … I mean, surely you have some plan after negotiations resume. Yeah?
MR. CROWLEY: Right.
QUESTION: And that plan would be … to get some kind of progress or some kind of loose agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, which would then keep the parties at the table and get them onto perhaps more difficult issues. So why do you think that that’s possible, to get that kind of progress in a three-month period?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re trying to do, as the Secretary said, is to get them back into negotiations. We’re working in advancing some ideas on both sides to help accomplish that. … [Emphasis added].
If news reports about what is being offered to Israel are accurate, Benny Avni’s conclusion that it is a bad deal for Israel, unlikely to produce peace, seems right. Moreover, if the letter Netanyahu is negotiating does not begin with “the U.S. reiterates its ‘steadfast commitments’ set forth in the presidential letter dated April 14, 2004,” Israel is making further concessions without confirming what it was already promised in the last presidential letter, given in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.
And words should matter.