Commentary Magazine


Topic: Abdullah II

Peace Process “Starts”?

This report tells you just how unserious — and unrelated to “peace” — is the process that supposedly started today: “United States special envoy George Mitchell met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, as Israelis and Palestinians readied themselves for the start of long-awaited indirect peace negotiations.” Yes, after 15 months George Mitchell has gotten the Palestinians and the Israelis to do exactly what they have been doing — talking to him and not each other. Yes, they came up with a fancy name — “proximity talks” — but that’s not exactly truth in advertising. There is no talking between the parties, in contrast to what happened during the Bush and Clinton administrations, which at least got the two sides in the same room. It’s not even clear what authority the PA has to negotiate:

Despite media reports that Mitchell’s meetings with Netanyahu would kick off the talks, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization has still to convene to give the go-ahead to Palestinian participation in the negotiations. The Arab League gave its backing to the talks on Saturday.

It is unclear when the Committee will meet. Abbas, the PLO head, was in Cairo and Amman on Wednesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II, and was not expected to return to Ramallah before Friday.

But just as the title of the talks signals that nothing much is going on, so does the pablum put out to the media after the first session: “A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said that the two met for three hours and described the atmosphere as good. Mitchell and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet again on Thursday. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the meeting was good and productive but did not give details.” Presumably this meant that no one left in a huff, but “productive” — well, that’s open to debate, not only for today’s session but for the entire exercise.

Both sides have said they don’t expect the talks to “succeed” and both want to maneuver not to be blamed. You thought the Iranian nuclear talks were the pinnacle of gamesmanship? Prepare to see both sides talk and talk and talk some more. So how does this end? In a third Intifada? With the administration announcing that they have “no choice” but to propose an American plan and a deadline for its implementation? The best we can hope for — and it would be a stretch at this point — is that the talks would quietly fizzle and the Palestinians will return to the business of creating the preconditions for real peace — that is, the formulation of institutions and the development of a new mindset that eschews victimology and violence. But the Obama crew has made that all the more difficult.

This report tells you just how unserious — and unrelated to “peace” — is the process that supposedly started today: “United States special envoy George Mitchell met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, as Israelis and Palestinians readied themselves for the start of long-awaited indirect peace negotiations.” Yes, after 15 months George Mitchell has gotten the Palestinians and the Israelis to do exactly what they have been doing — talking to him and not each other. Yes, they came up with a fancy name — “proximity talks” — but that’s not exactly truth in advertising. There is no talking between the parties, in contrast to what happened during the Bush and Clinton administrations, which at least got the two sides in the same room. It’s not even clear what authority the PA has to negotiate:

Despite media reports that Mitchell’s meetings with Netanyahu would kick off the talks, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization has still to convene to give the go-ahead to Palestinian participation in the negotiations. The Arab League gave its backing to the talks on Saturday.

It is unclear when the Committee will meet. Abbas, the PLO head, was in Cairo and Amman on Wednesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II, and was not expected to return to Ramallah before Friday.

But just as the title of the talks signals that nothing much is going on, so does the pablum put out to the media after the first session: “A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said that the two met for three hours and described the atmosphere as good. Mitchell and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet again on Thursday. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the meeting was good and productive but did not give details.” Presumably this meant that no one left in a huff, but “productive” — well, that’s open to debate, not only for today’s session but for the entire exercise.

Both sides have said they don’t expect the talks to “succeed” and both want to maneuver not to be blamed. You thought the Iranian nuclear talks were the pinnacle of gamesmanship? Prepare to see both sides talk and talk and talk some more. So how does this end? In a third Intifada? With the administration announcing that they have “no choice” but to propose an American plan and a deadline for its implementation? The best we can hope for — and it would be a stretch at this point — is that the talks would quietly fizzle and the Palestinians will return to the business of creating the preconditions for real peace — that is, the formulation of institutions and the development of a new mindset that eschews victimology and violence. But the Obama crew has made that all the more difficult.

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What Comes from Israel-Bashing

In the list of foreseeable consequences from the Obami’s assault on Israel is the radicalization of  more moderate Arab leaders, who can’t be seen as less aggressive than the Obama team in insisting on unilateral concessions by Israel. As this report explains:

Jordan’s leader also delivered in an interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal a rebuke of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charging that his policy of building homes for Jewish families in East Jerusalem has pushed Jordanian-Israeli relations to their lowest point since a 1994 peace treaty.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he will push the Obama administration next week to impose on Israel the terms and time-line for new peace talks with the Palestinians, as concerns mount inside his government that the stalled dialogue could fuel a new round of violence in the Middle East that targets moderate Arab states…

King Abdullah’s calls for Mr. Obama to essentially dictate the terms for Israeli-Palestinian talks is feeding into a policy debate in Washington over how hard to push Mr. Netanyahu.

So to review: the Obami picked a fight over an issue on which no Israeli government can relent, and that in the past has never risen to the level of public confrontation between the two nations, let alone necessitated a “condemnation” by the U.S. The Palestinians have reacted by taking to the streets. The Arab states are demanding Obama turn up the heat even further. The Israelis have told the Obama team they aren’t about to knuckle under to its demands on building in Jerusalem. Are we closer to peace? Or have the Obami managed to inflame and aggravate  the situation, raising Palestinian expectations and increasing Israeli anxiety? And meanwhile, the signal is unmistakable — to the mullahs in Tehran, to Iran’s Arab neighbors, and to Israel — that the U.S. is an unpredictable, flaky ally. It is a recipe for violence and instability.

In the list of foreseeable consequences from the Obami’s assault on Israel is the radicalization of  more moderate Arab leaders, who can’t be seen as less aggressive than the Obama team in insisting on unilateral concessions by Israel. As this report explains:

Jordan’s leader also delivered in an interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal a rebuke of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charging that his policy of building homes for Jewish families in East Jerusalem has pushed Jordanian-Israeli relations to their lowest point since a 1994 peace treaty.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he will push the Obama administration next week to impose on Israel the terms and time-line for new peace talks with the Palestinians, as concerns mount inside his government that the stalled dialogue could fuel a new round of violence in the Middle East that targets moderate Arab states…

King Abdullah’s calls for Mr. Obama to essentially dictate the terms for Israeli-Palestinian talks is feeding into a policy debate in Washington over how hard to push Mr. Netanyahu.

So to review: the Obami picked a fight over an issue on which no Israeli government can relent, and that in the past has never risen to the level of public confrontation between the two nations, let alone necessitated a “condemnation” by the U.S. The Palestinians have reacted by taking to the streets. The Arab states are demanding Obama turn up the heat even further. The Israelis have told the Obama team they aren’t about to knuckle under to its demands on building in Jerusalem. Are we closer to peace? Or have the Obami managed to inflame and aggravate  the situation, raising Palestinian expectations and increasing Israeli anxiety? And meanwhile, the signal is unmistakable — to the mullahs in Tehran, to Iran’s Arab neighbors, and to Israel — that the U.S. is an unpredictable, flaky ally. It is a recipe for violence and instability.

Read Less




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