Thursday, April 10, 2014

The blame game

As soon as the ill-fated Israeli-Palestinian talks came towards their predictable end, the blame game started.  And as usual the powers-that-be blame Israel, although the facts would indicate that the Palestinians were preparing their talk-ending unilateral actions well in advance of the talks actually ending.
Let's take a look at the sequence of events.  Two weeks before the talks ended in mid-March the Palestinian side announced that if the talks failed they would go immediately to multiple UN agencies to ask for unilateral recognition of their State.  This is contrary to the spirit and letter of all previous UN declarations that require a negotiated end to the conflict.  As a consequence of this announcement and under pressure from members of his coalition government, PM Netanyahu decided first to delay, then after further negative Palestinian comments, he cancelled the final Palestinian prisoner release. The point was, why should he release dangerous prisoners if the Palestinians were already saying that the talks were over and they were going to take unilateral action.  Then two days after the cancellation of the prisoner release PA President Abbas held a meeting of the Fatah-PLO Council and announced the application by the PA to 15 UN and international agencies, including several treaties and conventions that are restricted to States alone.  These applications were then filed the next day, so the PA had arranged and organized this talk-destroying action well in advance, while US Secty. of State Kerry was still bleating his hopes that the talks would continue.  In fact he flew all the way from Europe to Israel in order to meet with Abbas, but when Abbas made this announcement he turrned around and went back without having been consulted.
Now you would think that Kerry would be mad at Abbas and would publicly criticize these unilateral actions.  But, no, instead he criticized Israel. Kerry said that Netanyahu failed to release the prisoners and the talks went "pouf."  Many people have a hard time understanding why he would blame PM Netanyahu for the Palestinians taking this unilateral action. The reason is simple, the Arabs.  The US tries to maintain friendly relations with a host of Arab countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia (there are 22 of them).  Blaming the Palestinians for the break-down of the talks would result in negative reactions from the Arab countries, while blaming Israel only results in negative reaction from the Israelis and their mainly Jewish supporters.  Obama and Kerry have no doubt therefore who they should blame, irrespective of the facts.
Then PM Netanyahu announced that in response to the Palestinian unilateral actions he will ban further contacts between high Israeli Government officials and their Palestinian counterparts, except for the peace talks.  This was a minimal response that he could make.  But, of course then Kerry and others criticized this reaction as adding to the breakdown of the talks.  Others in the Coalition have suggested more extreme unilateral actions in response to the Palestinian actions, for example Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi party has proposed that Israel annex those areas where Jewish settlers constitute the majority, which would be within Israel in any negotiated agreement anyway (the so-called "land swaps").  However, so far Netanyahu has resisted these calls for a strong reaction.  But, if the PA goes ahead with these applications and gains more recognition, you can expect PM Netanyahu to "punish" them for their unilateral actions without negotiations.  The US should support its ally Israel in this response, but they will not.


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