The story revealed by our newspaper yesterday on the new conditions proposed by the Israeli Prime Minister to the US administration for a freeze on settlement construction for a specific period of time – thus leading to a resumption of the peace talks – demonstrates why we had been calling on the Palestinian President to continue negotiations and not fall into Netanyahu’s trap.
The source quoted in this article said that Netanyahu would agree to extend the settlement freeze for a period of two months on the condition that the Obama administration pledges to refrain from calling for a new [settlement] extension, and for construction to continue on the settlement projects that have already begun, and for Washington to agree to Israeli troops being stationed in the Jordan Rift Valley as part of any final peace agreement. In addition to this, Netanyahu also demanded US commitment to provide Israel with political support, including vetoing any UN Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state, as well as providing Israel with military support. The source also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Netanyahu had called on the Americans to help him confront the opposition that he is facing within his own government to the idea of a continuation of the settlement freeze by providing him with a “benefits package” that he could present to his ministers as evidence that this settlement freeze brings with it substantial gains for the Israelis.
The meaning of the above, regardless of whether these proposed conditions are accurate or whether Israel is merely floating a trial balloon, is that Netanyahu planned – and it seems that this plan will succeed – to emerge from the impasse of the stalled negotiations with substantial gains. The most prominent gain would be to reduce the options of the Palestinian negotiator, as this would see the completion of settlement projects whose constructions have already begun, along with a guarantee that a settlement extension will not be called for again in return for only a two month settlement freeze; as if the conflict that has been taking place for all of these years could be resolved in a period of just two months! Netanyahu also called for Israeli forces to be stationed in the Jordan Rift Valley, in the hopes of making gains even before sitting at the negotiating table, as well as embarrassing – or let us say provoking – Jordan.
More importantly than all of this, Netanyahu is planning to block the path of any international approach to recognize the state of Palestine, which is one of the limited options in the hands of the Palestinians. Netanyahu also wants Washington to silence his opponents within his own government, via incentives or otherwise; or in other words clean up his backyard, as the saying goes.
Rather than the Palestinians continuing negotiating, embarrassing Netanyahu and exposing his tricks to the international community, the tables have turned on Abbas today and Netanyahu is the one who is demanding incentives and pledges!
Abbas was capable of exploiting this historic opportunity with regards to the presence of a US president who is not only keen on resolving the Arab – Israeli conflict, but even believes that this is in the interest of his own country’s national security. The Palestinian president could also have exposed Netanyahu in front of the international community, increasing the momentum of the international community with regards its support for the Palestinian cause, and leading the Netanyahu government to collapse; something that nobody would have regretted, including the Obama administration.
Unfortunately, there is nothing new in the conflict with Israel, other than the Israelis confirming once more that they well know how to benefit from our endless mistakes.