Following yesterday’s post about the New York Times editorial chastising Mahmoud Abbas for holding out of direct negotiations (which itself followed fellow Mainer George Mitchell’ visit to Ramallah), Haaretz and Israeli PM Netanyahu conveniently supported the main idea in my last article: namely, it is Netanyahu, and not Abbas, that is refusing to seriously enter negotiations – despite the rhetoric coming from Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu yesterday rejected the Abbas proposal that direct talks be based on a Quartet (the MEQ is the US, EU, Russia and the UN) statement confirming that its support of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. Netanyahu has already dismissed the idea of a continuation a the current (though ineffective) settlement construction freeze (though the idea of a partial freeze has been floated), thus rejecting both of Abbas demands for direct negotiations. The Palestinian demands (a complete settlement freeze and a commitment to a Palestinian state along 1967 borders) are not new and are in line with international law. Indeed, the Palestinians had not demanded a full settlement freeze until US President Obama did last year.
[tweetmeme] Essentially, Abbas and the Palestinians are asking that Israeli colonization of Palestine cease during talks that are based on ending the illegal occupation along the internationally recognized borders. Israel has rejected both requests and yet Abbas is painted as the one who is not seriously entering talks. As Palestinian lead negotiator Saeb Erekat sais, “the key is in Netanyahu’s hands.”
Of course, the rejection by Netanyahu yesterday was not a big shock as it represents the stubborn refusal to negotiate for which the Prime Minister has become known. It does, on the other hand, demonstrate that Abbas (whom Mitchell considers to be “constructive and very positive”) is the only leader who is serious about negotiating a peace. It seems as though the proximity talks, for Netanyahu, are simply a waiting period for Abbas to acquiesce to Israel colonization and not as indirect negotiations.
The timing of the Netanyahu refusal seems (depressingly) priceless after yesterday’s Times editorial (will there be a new editorial tomorrow commenting on Israel’s need to seriously enter negotiations?). While the West is still after Abbas, it is clear that Palestine has no partner for negotiations. Per Richard Silverstein:
Israeli rightists and those echoing their formulations are fond of saying about the Palestinians: “There is no partner for peace.” Well, now the Palestinians can legitimately say the same about the current Israeli government…
Affirming 1967 borders would be little more than a reformulation of every major peace proposal going back ten years from the Clinton and Taba talks to the Arab League proposal to the Quartet. Bibi’s rejection sends Israel-Palestine relations into total disarray and renders Mitchell’s work moot. And there certainly is now no Israeli partner.
The Abbas regime is not perfect and they have made many mistakes in negotiations with Israel. However, it is time for the West to put some actual pressure on the party that is truly making negotiations impossible.