Whatever you may say about the Palestinian plan to apply for statehood at the UN, you must concede it has overturned just about everyone’s apple cart of consensus and expectations. Apparently, it has caused a deep rift within the Quartet itself. That body arrogated to itself the responsibility for encouraging both sides to return to the negotiating table. During better days, the members seemed to be generally on the same page, though their individual national interests and agenda diverged greatly. But with the Palestine’s aggressive campaign this week, those diverging interests have been highlighted. Indeed, according to a NY Times report, the Quartet is on the verge of total disarray, with the Russians presumably taking a very different approach than Europeans and the U.S.:
Representatives of the so-called quartet — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — were still trying late Thursday to reach an agreement on a statement about moving peace negotiations forward, intended to counterbalance the controversial proposal for United Nations membership that Mr. Abbas has vowed to present. The future of the Quartet could be at risk, some diplomats suggested, with the Americans and the Europeans, close to an agreement, ready to abandon the other two members and issue a statement by themselves.
I hope the Russians hold fast. I’m deeply suspicious of any statement supported by the U.S. or even the Europeans, who seem much more attuned to the needs of this Israeli government than those of the Palestinians.
There simply can be no agreement unless all parties hammer Netanyahu hard for his intransigence and foot-dragging. Right now, none of the parties seems prepared to do that. So getting both sides back to the table is a pipe dream, Quartet or no Quartet.
The U.S., its allies, and the NY Times have developed a narrative which labels the Palestinians as obstacles to a peace settlement. They call Mahmoud Abbas “Hamlet” for his supposed dithering in the face of the “blandishments” offered to him in return for Palestinians’ acquiescence in a peace deal. The latest volley, is a shameful op-ed by Ehud Olmert (he of the Slimfast boxes full of cash transferred to him during his stay at posh Manhattan hotels, compliments of his Diet King friend, S. Daniel Abraham) in which he claims he offered Abbas a state with territory “equivalent” to the size of pre-67 West Bank and Gaza. This is the “deal” that Olmert and the Times views as too good to refuse, which Abbas somehow refused (imagine the ungratefulness). What Olmert left out, and you can fill in by reading the Palestine Papers, is that the disgraced former prime minister’s offer (no mention of the serial bribery charges against Olmert in the credits for his NY Times op-ed) included a measly 5,000 refugees allowed to return to Israel, out of 400,000 who might reasonably be expected to wish to do so according to the Geneva Accords. These 5,000 would return not on the basis of any legitimate claim under international law, but “on a humanitarian basis,” whatever that means. Not to mention that Olmert’s territorial offer wasn’t even equal to what was offered to Arafat in Camp David.
Whatever failings the Palestinians and their leaders may have, it is not them that is the obstacle. Offer them something real, something legitimate and they will respond. Offering them gornisht as has so far been the case, and you will merit a blank stare (something like the one on Abbas’s face as he listened to Obama’s abominable UN speech yesterday), and rightfully so.
Even Bill Clinton, who deserves some measure of blame for the failure of past peace initiatives, has gotten religion. At his Global Initiative today in New York, he placed blame solely on Netanyahu. The ex-president’s perspective is interesting:
“The Israelis always wanted two things that, once it turned out they had…didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu,” Clinton said, adding that Israel wanted “to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank.”
Furthermore…Israel was also on the verge of being recognized by the Arabs, adding that the “king of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘if you work it out with the Palestinians … we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership.”
“This is huge…. It’s a heck of a deal,” Clinton said, adding: “That’s what happened. Every American needs to know this. That’s how we got to where we are.”
“The real cynics believe that the Netanyahu’s government’s continued call for negotiations…and such means that he’s just not going to give up the West Bank,” he added.
Though Bill Clinton’s shepherding of the Middle East peace process was far from perfect, Obama and the NY Times editorial writers should pay a lot closer attention to Bill Clinton’s views than those of Dennis Ross. This mess is Bibi’s, with Ross as his enabler. Unfortunately, the two have dragged the current U.S. president into the mess as well.