Thursday, July 14, 2011


In my May 25th post, "Did We Hear The Same Speech?" I suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have adopted a different response to President Obama's speech to the State Department on the Arab Spring, a speech that included his proposed reference points for renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  I wrote that the Prime Minister should have "pocketed" the points Israel wants, e.g. Jewish State for Jewish People, end of all claims, long-time presence in the Jordan Valley, and "spun" the points not to Israel's liking, such as 1967 lines with land swaps. 

My argument was that this approach would have preserved and solidified positions favorable to Israel, avoided a confrontation with the President, and put the onus for torpedoing negotiations on the Palestinians if, as was almost a certainty, Palestinian Authority President Abbas rejected the Jewish State and end of all claims reference points and, therefore, the negotiations did not restart.

The Prime Minster instead focused on just the 1967 line issue, engaged in a major confrontation with the President, won great acclaim in the Congress, greatly pleased his coalition partners and supporters back home, royally positioned Israel to be blamed for a failure to restart negotiations, and set Israel up for a major clash with the U.S. Administration should Obama win reelection.

Now, less than two months later, reports are that, surprise, Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated to the U.S. that he would accept starting negotiations based on the President's 1967 plus swaps reference point if the P.A. accepts Israel as a Jewish State and agrees to an end to all claims. 

Predictably, President Abbas rejected those reference points virtually the minute the Prime Minister whispered his acceptance.  Indeed, the Russians carried the P.A.'s water with the Quartet, thwarting a statement calling for renewed negotiations based on, among other things, the Palestinians recognizing Israel as the Jewish State. 

Of course, media attention and the world's focus is well onto other issues and Netanyahu's new openness and Abbas' rejectionism will be little noticed.  So much for Israeli hasbara (public diplomacy). 

I attended the the recent President's Conference in Jerusalem.  One of the panels discussed the prospects for renewing negotiations, and one of the panelists was N.Y. Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner.  After the discussion, I asked Mr. Bronner if the President's points about Israel being a Jewish State and an agreement embodying the end of all claims were, like the 1967 lines plus swaps, pre-conditions to negotiations, i.e., if a party went to negotiations did that mean they accepted those points. 

Mr. Bronner responded that the answer was unclear and that the Israelis were trying to get clarification from the U.S. on that question.  Further, he said that members of the Obama Administration were in the region to ask the Palestinians if they would agree to any such reference points. 

One would have hoped that the Administration would have figured that out in advance.  Or, one would hope that the Administration would have been as intent on ramming something down the Palestinians' throats as they were to do so to Israel.


  1. I'm sure this has happened with other Israeli Prime Ministers but with Bibi, I've always had this feeling that he hires a guy to watch CNN or Fox News all day and report to him on what is going on in the news in the US and around the world. He then picks slow news cycles to show agreement with US positions that he knows the Palestinians will object whenever big news is happening elsewhere. Nice work if you can get it. I'd like to have that job. I just hope he (or she) is well compensated.

  2. All too often it becomes so enticing to make the people the problem instead of remembering that the problem is the problem. Here, as AE says, the problem is Israel's right to exist and the Palestinian's claim for a right of return. Due to the long history of the conflict, the leaders are only able to push and pull agreements on smaller, isolated issues, very often just procedural and fairness issues, which do not seem to get us farther down the road we all wish to be on...the road to peace. Building those mountains of "yeses" with the hope they will lead to a yes on the two main issues, has become tedious for all. Two of the three who shook hands on the White House lawn in September 1995 are no longer with us and the third is out of power. That having been said, how much does it really help to blame? At least the people are out there collecting current information and agreeing on where they disagree; necessities for a foundation of a bridge that has a very large expanse to cover and shaky ground upon which to build footings.