Thanks to the Netanyahu government’s finger-in-the-eye announcement of 1,600 new housing units to be built in occupied East Jerusalem, Mahmoud Abbas told a hastily convened emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo that he was prepared to ditch the Israeli-Palestinian “proximity” peace talks even before they begin. Sheera Frenkel writes in the Times of London:
Fresh attempts to revive peace talks in the Middle East were on the verge of collapse last night as the Palestinians threatened to pull out before the negotiations began.
At an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, announced that he would boycott the US-mediated talks because of Israel’s refusal to halt construction on the occupied territories.
Frankly, I don’t even know why Joe Biden didn’t turn right around and come home after he learned this news. What else do you have to talk to talk about when your own client state gives you the finger like that? Frenkel also notes that the U.S. didn’t even tell Israel to cancel the construction. It merely denounced it. While Biden’s statement was unusually blunt, it was more of the same. There have been U.S. condemnations of such announcements going back decades. They build, we condemn. They act, we talk. If just once we ACTED, instead of talked the Israelis’ jaw would drop in disbelief.
It appears, with this president, at least at this time, there’s almost no likelihood of any such revolutionary changes in the offing regarding our relationship with Israel. Just more of the same. Bibi and the lobby have won temporarily. But what they don’t realize is that events will not allow them to enjoy this victory. There will be another war. It may be in Gaza or Lebanon or Teheran. And whatever advantage Israel enjoys will slowly erode. Time, despite the Israeli right’s belief, is not on Israel’s side in this.
If Abbas, not known for this, has any balls perhaps he will call Israel’s bluff and stay home. That would call for some heavy-lifting from George Mitchell to get this locomotive back on track. He would have to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Perhaps he will get Bibi to delay the new construction for a time until after the talks begin. Abbas could save face and yet continue being little more than the puppet he is by returning to the table. It still would amount to very little. The only thing Israel could do to really change the tone and allow peace talks to begin and proceed is a full settlement freeze. And that’s not in the offing. So Abbas, Bibi and Obama will fiddle while the conflict burns.
And lest anyone linger under the misimpression that this 1,600 is it, Haaretz tells us of government plans to build a total of 50,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem. This ain’t goin’ away any time soon, folks. So if Obama & Co. think they can finesse this, they’ve got another thing coming.
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- Palestinians snub peace talks because of Israeli homes expansion (guardian.co.uk)