Monday, February 20, 2017

Covenant With Many

Ex-officials: Israeli leader spurned secret peace offer - AP
The AP reports: "Two former top aides to Kerry confirmed that the meeting took place secretly on Feb. 21, 2016. According to the officials, Kerry tried to sweeten the 15-year-old 'Arab Peace Initiative,' a Saudi-led plan that offered Israel peace with dozens of Arab and Muslim nations in return for a pullout from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war to make way for an independent Palestine. Among the proposed changes were Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians, and softened language on the 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees to lost properties in what is now Israel, the former officials said. [...] the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders reacted positively to the proposal, while Netanyahu refused to commit to anything beyond meetings with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. One of the officials said the main purpose of the meeting was to start a regional peace process that Netanyahu said he wanted. [...] other Gulf Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, along with the Palestinians, the Europeans and the Russians, were also consulted as part of the process."

Comment: This is a noteworthy report because it reminds us of two very important things. First, the basic outline of a Mideast peace agreement is well established. From the Clinton plan, to the Bush plan, the Saudi plan and this latest Obama-era plan, the contours of a final status agreement have already been hammered out over the years.  There is very little doubt about what a Mideast peace deal would look like. The plan is not the problem, the issue is political will. For many years it was the Palestinians who said no to every plan put on the table. Each successive plan gave them more and more of what they wanted and under the duplicitous leadership of Yasser Arafat, they always said no. Still, the U.S. and the West persevered. Arafat though was not in a position to say yes. His people and his patrons did not want peace. This became clear after his death and the ensuing leadership struggle between rival Palestinians factions. The Palestinians tried to continue with the "peace process" as they fought each other, deceiving the West and/or each other with a long game of good-cop/bad-cop in which the Fatah faction played good-cop and became the public face of the Palestinians. They were there "political wing" and they negotiated with Israel even as the "militant wing" of Hamas continued the fight, armed and supported by Iran. How could Israel negotiate with one Palestinian faction for peace while the other faction was dedicated to Israel's destruction? The U.S. was willing to ignore this contradiction, Israel was not. So it came to be that under Netanyahu's leadership, Israel finally shattered the illusion and admitted to all that they did not have a peace partner in the Palestinians and it became Israel's turn to say no to a Mideast peace deal. That seems to be where we are now.

The second important thing to note about this report is that this insight into Mideast peace negotiating was leaked by a former Obama Administration official. Why leak this now? There seems to be a concerted attempt both inside Israel and out to undermine Netanhayu. The knives are out. Why? Netanyahu is seen as an impediment to peace and they believe that if they could only get rid of him there would be a real chance to achieve the goal of Mideast peace.

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