Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Netanyahu is not being honest with us.

By Ted Belman

The Roadmap clearly provides for a settlement freeze “consistent with the Mitchell Report.” Beyond what the Mitchell Report lays outlays out requiring steps by the Arabs also, it is important to keep in mind that this whole process was imposed by the US with the view of furthering the creation of a 23rd Arab state. Israel had no choice in the matter.

It also provides that the Quartet is to be the to be the arbiter of progress. In reality, this is role has been assumed by the US alone.

It carries with it a great diminution of Israel sovereignty and independence. Israel agreed to it with 14 reservations. Even so the Roadmap has been frustrated for many years now and in law, a frustrated agreement can be set aside if desired.

So it disturbs me to hear that Israel still agrees to it without amendment, even when the US is putting great pressure on Israel to stop settlements everywhere over the greenline. This pressure is unaccompanied by equal pressure, or any pressure, for the Arabs to live up to their obligations.

Rather than tell the US to get lost, Israel is negotiating for a change in the US demands. Nowhere in the reports of negotiations do I read about a demand on the Arabs.

This is wrong. Israel should insist on her right to settle the land regardless of the Roadmap and Mitchell, then or now. The mere fact that Israel comes to the US, cap in hand, bothers me. Israel does not have to make the case for building. It just has to take Nike’s advice and just do it.

But there is another matter that bothers me. Netanyahu in his speech laid out a number of requirements in any agreement any one of which the Arabs would choke on. In fact the Arabs have categorically refused because of them to even continue negotiations. Yet negotiations with the US for a freeze or even a limited freeze continue.

What is assumed by US and Israel is that the peace process is still on because Netanyahu will ultimately yield on his conditions and therefore there is a purpose to negotiating the settlement freeze. Thus I am disturbed by the inherent assumption that the gap between the Israelis and Arabs can be closed with sufficient compromises. Since the Arabs refuse and will continue to refuse to compromise, it is left for Israel to close the gap itself.

On the other hand, as I have written before, no one expects the peace process to result in an agreement. Therefore the settlement freeze, in itself, is victory enough for Obama. But it should be utterly rejected by Netanyahu. At a minimum he should put an expiry date on any freeze agreed to like the end of 2010.

When Sharon wanted to disengage from Gaza, he negotiated with Bush for some quid pro quos. Obama has made short shrift of them. So I ask, is Israel demanding any assurances from Obama that its conditions will be met or at a minimum that the promises made by Bush will be honoured. If not we are doomed. If yes, we are paying doubly for the same commitment and thus doomed.

Netanyahu is not being honest with us. He made a great speech, notwithstanding the recognition of a Palestinian state, in which he made us believe in his conditions were red lines. The current negotiations tell a different story.

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