If you read Ethan Bronner’s warmed over reporting on the death of the settlement freeze you realize that he, like Israel and perhaps the Obama administration, has a deeply skewed view of reality. To them, it is a given that the freeze is over and should be accepted as such. All that remains is for Mahmoud Abbas to get over it, get used to it and get on with whatever’s supposed to happen next in the process.
Read this article and tell me where there is any recognition of the fatal bullet fired by Bibi into both the freeze and the talks by his refusal to renew it? Where is there any understanding of the Palestinian point of view? Where is there any sense that Israel’s refusal has led to this crisis? Read this closely and you will discover that it is really up to Abbas to find a way to continue the talks. There seems to be almost an expectation that he will do so. If he does not, the implication here is that it will clearly be Abbas’ fault and not Israel’s.
Consider these passages:
Israel allowed a politically charged freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank to expire on Sunday, but the Palestinians did not carry out a threat to quit peace negotiations…
American officials spent Sunday desperately seeking a formula to satisfy both sides — an effort that failed to produce a compromise from the Israelis but that may have helped persuade the Palestinians to delay a decision on abandoning the talks…
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel issued a statement calling on Mr. Abbas “to continue the good and sincere talks that we have just started, in order to reach an historic peace agreement between our two peoples.”
…Israeli officials said that Mr. Netanyahu felt bound by his promise not to extend the moratorium beyond 10 months. He is also hemmed in by his right-leaning coalition government…
The immediate question was whether the Palestinians would keep negotiating. Much of the diplomacy in the past few days was aimed at Mr. Abbas to persuade him to find a way to do so.
…Mr. Abbas told the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat in an interview published on Sunday that if the building moratorium was not extended, his next step would be to consult with the Palestine Liberation Organization and Arab League leaders. This seemed short of actually ending the talks…
United States officials have said in recent weeks that the Arab world is eager for the talks to continue.
The officials making these statements and even the reporter writing this story are in Alice in Wonderland, where black is white and white, black. So let me make it clear to them in case they needed this: the talks are dead. Israel has trashed the talks with its version of trash talk (i.e. ending the freeze). Even if Abbas comes back to continue talking without any “give” from the Israeli side, he will have no Palestinian or Arab support for doing so. The past has proven that Abbas is a lackey. But even he realizes when he has no support and will walk back from the edge of the branch before it breaks.
There are no present terms under which such talks can be successful. Bibi really has everyone playing from his own deck and that deck is stacked in his favor. For instance, Bronner writes that Bibi can’t possibly compromise because he is hemmed in by rightist partners in his coalition. When who the hell says those have to be his partners? If Bibi really wanted peace he would ditch his partners and form a centrist coalition with Kadima. Then he might be able to reach a peace agreement despite the howling of his far-right former partners. But read my lips: Bibi will NEVER do this because he will never betray his ideological soulmates for an alliance with moderates in Kadima. Bibi is not a moderate, he will never be a moderate and he shuns moderates like the plague.
I deeply regret saying this but peace is dead for the time being. We should prepare for another war. Whether it will be in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon or Iran I don’t know. My guess is that if Abbas breaks off the talks and talks with Syria produce little or nothing, then Bibi will attack Iran. His bellicosity against the Ayatollahs has served in the past to distract the world’s attention from some of Israel’s worst Occupation policies. To let off steam from world opinion which might begin to blame Israel for the failure of the talks, I think it may be possible Bibi will use a distraction like a raid on Iran or one of the other front-line states.
If Bibi does pursue such a path he will be sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. He believes that military conflict favors Israel both in military and hasbara terms. But the truth is that every new war Israel fights its support in the world community declines. And it can go lower, much lower.
Though Bibi issued a faux request that Israel not celebrate the end of the freeze, his own Likud betrayed him. And can he blame them?
“For 10 months you have been treated like second-class citizens,” Danny Danon, a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said at the settlement ceremony. “Today we return to build in all the land of Israel.”
And to close with a bang, not a whimper, read this utter sophistry by Michael Oren justifying Bibi’s hard-headed position on the freeze. The man outdoes even Mark Regev in the department of chutzpah and sheer mendacity:
“It is a read-my-lips moment,” said Michael B. Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. “This establishes credibility, not just for the Israelis but for the Palestinians. Establishing that the man is true to his word is going to be a very important asset going forward.”
Whatever you want to say about the man, he sure earns his keep in the pure fiction Hasbara department.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.