Ever one to put a high gloss on news unfavorable to Israel, Ethan Bronner’s latest report on the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations avoids the obvious–that they’re dead.
Saeed Barnoura of the International Middle East Media Center wrote after today’s failure of George Mitchell’s latest round of talks:
United States Middle East Peace Envoy, George Mitchell, left the Middle East on Friday without achieving any breakthrough in the troubled direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Mitchell could not convince Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to extend the freeze on settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
He said that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are on hold, but reiterated the commitment of the U.S. Administration to support indirect talks between the two sides.
Contrast that with Bronner happy-talk:
The Obama administration’s Middle East envoy left Jerusalem empty-handed on Friday after intensive efforts to save Palestinian-Israeli peace talks that have run aground on Israel’s decision to allow a freeze on West Bank Jewish settlement construction to expire.
After two meetings each with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, the envoy, George J. Mitchell, said all sides would keep talking.
If the talks are on hold then the sides aren’t talking. You can’t have it both ways. And if you read further in Bronner’s report you see that Mitchell didn’t say quite what Bronner has him say. He really said:
“Despite that [failure] we will continue with determination.”
That just means that the U.S. isn’t giving up and hopes neither side will give up. It doesn’t mean they’ll continue talking, at least not at the negotiating table. Nowhere in Bronner’s article does he use the term “suspended,” “failed” or anything remotely like that to describe the current status. I thought a good reporter is supposed to tell you the news clearly and succinctly. I guess for Bronner that doesn’t include news that isn’t so good for Israel. For such news you can obfuscate and shilly-shally around the obvious.
What he does do is provide Israel’s brief for why settlement-building isn’t such a big deal for the Palestinians to get so hot and bothered about:
The built-up areas make up only 2 percent to 3 percent of the West Bank, and Mr. Netanyahu is arguing that the 2,000 or so housing units that might be built in the coming year while a final agreement was being negotiated would matter little in the end. If the talks stop, the building would be likely to increase.
An earlier NY Times report listed all the goodies which the U.S. was offering Bibi to extend the freeze. Guns, butter, the list was sickening; just about everything except what Bibi seems to covet above all else: Jonathan Pollard. I’m astonished that weeks before a crucial U.S. mid-term election Bibi is so politically tone-deaf as to demand freedom for America’s worst post-war spy. In fact, the very thought of this is an insult not just to Obama, but the American people. But it would only be an insult to them if Obama actually capitulated and freed Pollard. There would be howls of protest. Imagine freeing this man in return for the equivalent of a mess of porridge: a four-week extension of the freeze. The very thought of it is preposterous.
What I’ve written about this before is: sure, I’d trade Pollard in return for something. But not a measly four weeks. I’d trade him for a final peace agreement involving an Israeli return to 1967 borders and sharing Jerusalem as the capital of Palestinian and Jewish states. I’d give up Pollard in a heartbeat for that.
Pollard for Mossad Chief
I can just see it now: Pollard returns to Israel to a heroes welcome with Bibi and his ex-Mossad handler, Rafi Eitan, meeting him at Ben Gurion. Afterward, Rafi announces that he’s reviving his failed political party, the Pensioners’ movement so that he and Pollard can run on the same ticket for Knesset. And then when Israel rallies to their cause, they can join a new government with Pollard serving as the new Mossad chief or Defense Minister.
After all, the current chief, Meir Dagan is being sacked for the Dubai assassination fiasco and Bibi’s looking for a new top spook. The timing would be perfect and it would seem only fitting to name Pollard to the role since he’s performed such extraordinary service on Mossad’s behalf. My only regret is that Meyer Lansky’s passed. If he were still alive he’d make a perfect Justice minister. And while we’re at it, why not Irving Moskowitz for settlements minister?