Sunday 15 March 2015

Netanyahu's True Colours

An interesting document has been published by Israel's Yediot Achronot and its on line publication, Ynet.  It is claimed that the document was prepared by officials in Prime Minister Netanyahu's government, something that the prime minister vehemently denies.  The document, which is addressed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, purports to offer huge concessions on the part of the Israeli government in the search for a peace agreement.  Netanyahu claims that he would never have offered the things that were contained in the document, and accuses the newspaper's editor, the Moses family, of trying to play a dirty political trick to discredit him.  Another journalist, who claims to have investigated the matter of this document, says that the document is genuine but was developed by the US administration rather than by the Israeli government.  Another theory that has been put forward is that Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, was involved in putting together the document with Netanyahu's blessing.

Whatever you wish to believe about the source of the document, it does contain some interesting information.  The document is formulated in the style of an offer to the Palestinians, which sets out major concessions on the part of the Israeli government.  The document was developed in August 2013 as part of the ill-fated peace talks under the sponsorship and auspices of US Secretary of State, John Kerry.  The concessions incorporated in the document include a proposal for Israel to revert back to the 1967 land borders with certain land swaps, a deal on allowing a Palestinian state a part of Jerusalem as its capital, and even a concession to allow the return of some Palestinian refugees.  One version of the story suggests that they were presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu's personal representative Yitzchak Molcho to Hussein Agha, affiliate of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, soon after the talks were initiated in July 2013.  If this is to be believed, these concessions represent possible compromise solutions to the main sticking points that the Palestinians continue to present as being the key reasons for the ongoing lack of agreement between themselves and Israel.

It is not clear whether or not the document was presented to the Palestinians, but it seems inconceivable that they were not at least aware of it.  It is interesting that there was never public comment made on their part about it.  Some would hold this up as evidence of the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not negotiating in good faith.  If he had been negotiating in good faith, and had received a proposal that provided a reasonable response to the main outstanding sticking points or was at least aware of it, it seems likely that he would have referred to it.  So is this an indication of bad faith?  It feels almost like the revelations that came out of Camp David in 2000 when then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is reported to have turned down major concessions offered by Ehud Barak, specifically on the matter of a solution to share Jerusalem.  There was shock that Barak had made such a far-reaching offer, and even greater shock that it was rejected.  This "outed" Yasser Arafat as negotiating in bad faith, and having no intention of reaching a peace agreement with Israel.  Is this also true of Mahmoud Abbas?

Even though there is a strong argument that the reason behind Abbas not being prepared to refer publicly to the offer is because he is negotiating in bad faith, I am not sure that this is the whole story.  I contend that he would have reason to jump on such a proposal even if he was not negotiating in good faith.  After all, gaining access to such substantial concessions on Israel's part, even if he never had any intention to stand by undertakings given in return, would represent greater possession for the Palestinians.  It could be argued that this would be major progress for them if their unholy quest is to destroy the Jews and take over Israel for themselves.  So why not try to promote it publicly?

It seems to me that Abbas is determined to remain a "struggle leader".  Unlike Nelson Mandela who led the struggle in order to transform society so that he could be a leader of a legitimate majority-rule democracy, Abbas does not see him or his people in this legitimate role.  Instead, they prefer to be in a state of "struggle" on an ongoing basis.  It seems as though the advantage of the international sympathy and support that the Palestinians are enjoying, could all be lost in the event that they become a full-fledged member of the international community.  The only explanation that I can offer for Abbas not jumping on the concessions that were set out in the letter, is because he wishes to remain the leader of a struggle.  The Palestinian leadership has demonstrated on numerous occasions that it is unable to fulfil the role of legitimate leaders who have the objective of guiding a country to fill its place among the nations, and be prepared to abide by all rights and obligations that come with that.  Perhaps Abbas fears that accepting the concessions would result in the Americans forcing him and his Palestinian Authority to become responsible leaders as required in the international arena.  The way in which the Palestinian leadership has dealt with refugees over the years, the way in which aid from the international community has been skimmed off for their own private consumption and the ongoing sponsorship of terror and wars against Israel represent only some of the evidence of their unwillingness to become a legitimate leadership, government and country.   It seems more convenient to be regarded as the downtrodden underdog of the world, with all the international support and sympathy that is associated with that.

There can be no doubt that the Palestinians are playing an extremely shrewd political game in achieving their objectives.  I have no doubt that the objectives of the leadership are not the same as their published objectives as laid down before the international community.  The so-called "occupation" that Israel is constantly accused of is without foundation, and their stated quest to set up a Palestinian state could have been achieved ages ago with a little political will.  It is a well documented fact that the State of Israel was established in 1948 with far less than has been offered to the Palestinians for their state.

It is also interesting for me to try to understand why Netanyahu has been so sensitive about the attribution of this document to him.  He was quick to say that he would never offer parts of Jerusalem as a capital of a Palestinian state, or agree to return to the 1967 borders.  This is all despite the fact that he has publicly accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state.  Was he concerned of a right-wing backlash against him in the days leading up to the election?  It may perversely serve to assist him in his election campaign, to show up the Palestinian leadership for what they are by acknowledging some association with the document.

Middle East politics is certainly a strange beast.  The only thing that one can be sure of, is that all is never what it seems.

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