Helene Cooper contributes a perfectly predictable Early Obstacle at Start of Mideast Talks, to the discussion of peace talks in the Middle East.
President Obama will begin his one-year effort to achieve Middle East peace on Wednesday, joining a long list of his predecessors who have tried to achieve a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
But unlike the presidents before him, Mr. Obama will know within three weeks whether the two sides are serious this time about reaching a deal.
Really? I would have thought that he already knows that. For one thing Barry Rubin pointed out:
It is amusing to see articles claiming that this is a victory for the Obama Administration. If the U.S. government had been doing such a good job it would have been able to announce the resumption of elections in April 2009, after the visit of Abbas to Washington. The president did indeed announce the resumption of negotiations in September 2009 and nothing has happened in a year.
Moreover, it is amusing to read accounts of the resumption of talks without any mention of the fact that the sole reason it has taken so long has been the PA’s resistance to negotiations.
Cooper doesn’t claim that the upcoming talks will be a victory for the administration, but she hypes the idea that there will be clarity. But she doesn’t acknowledge that the delay in the resumption of talks was due to a calculated fit of pique by Mahmoud Abbas, who wouldn’t even go back to the negotiating table after Netanyahu agreed to a freeze on building Jewish communiites in Judea and Samaria. I would think that alone shows who’s unserious.
Yet Cooper casts things like this:
Mr. Obama, administration officials said, will call on the four leaders to do all they can to settle, within a year, the final status issues: the fate of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled their homes and the issue of Israeli security.
But on Sept. 26, Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction will expire. Mr. Netanyahu appears unlikely to extend it, Israeli and American officials said. And Mr. Abbas has said that he will withdraw from negotiations if settlement activity resumes.
In other words, she has Israel up for failure. A failure to resume the freeze will lead to a collapse of the talks.
So what to do?
Those officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks, said that discussions were under way on a number of possible solutions. They include trying to get a promise from Mr. Netanyahu that Israel will exercise restraint in settlement construction, perhaps allowing construction only within existing West Bank settlement blocks, but no housing starts beyond those blocks.
Such a plan could also include early “confidence building” concessions from Israel on a few additional issues of concern to the Palestinians, officials said, including agreeing to limit Israeli Army incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank, and transferring key areas in the West Bank to Palestinian control before a final agreement is reached.
Of course! It always works, Israeli “confidence building measures.” It’s amazing how often we hear about “Israeli confidence building measures.” (From now on “cbm” for short.) If Israel won’t sweeten their offer, the Palestinians will be within their rights to walk away. Of course this failure for Israel to toss out new cbm’s will be regarded as a sign of Israel’s intransigence.
Did Israel withdraw from Gaza? From most of Hevron? From most of Judea and Samaria? Did Israel regard the PLO as a partner for peace even when the PLO was disregarding every single commitment it made? Does the PA/PLO still engage in incitement against Israel? Do its leaders still deny the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state?
I can see why we need more Israeli cbm’s. The peace process is so one-sided in Israel’s favor, why would the Palestinians participate? Oh wait, they want a state of their own? If their own state is so important why don’t they just make a deal? Or is it simply more important to wring concessions out of Israel in exchange for nothing?
So while Israel is introducing Arabic as a second language in many of its schools, the PA continues to deny Israel’s history.
I can see why cbm’s are needed. And I’m not surprised that the New York Times insists they’re needed, where they really aren’t.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad.