Saturday, April 05, 2014

Negotiating to the death

Ruthie Blum

During a nine-hour meeting Wednesday between Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, the atmosphere turned so ugly that U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk had to intervene. Apparently, even Livni -- who is almost as obsessed as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with the pointless process -- lost her cool.
And it's no wonder. Erekat shouted at her that he doesn't work for the Israelis. "We'll see you in court at The Hague," he threatened.
This was a major slap in Livni's face, since she has been doing her best to work for the Palestinians. So she also issued an ultimatum. Hers was that if the Palestinians did not start playing fairly, there would be a breakdown in negotiations. As though this would be some kind of penalty to a party that has no interest in peace talks, let alone in the concept of independent statehood alongside Israel. Destroying the Jewish state that it refuses to recognize is still its ultimate goal.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during that exchange. Watching Indyk rush in to soothe tempers and prevent Erekat from storming off and putting the final nail in the coffin of Kerry's Nobel Peace Prize would have made for great comedy. But tragedy is never far behind, as is evident in Kerry's attitude and Palestinian behavior.
While the secretary of state was expressing his frustration with "both sides" for not being able to reach an agreement, and calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to exhibit "leadership," Abbas was busy seeking membership in U.N. bodies.
Abbas seems to be the only player fully aware that neither Kerry's efforts nor Netanyahu's concessions have been part of an actual negotiation towards "two states for two peoples." He knows it has all been for the purpose of persuading him to agree just to come to the proverbial table. Milking this for all it is worth, he keeps upping the ante.
This is why Netanyahu announced that the fourth batch of prisoner releases (a euphemism for the freeing of bloodthirsty terrorists from Israeli jails) would not go through as scheduled. Since the first three releases only served to strengthen Palestinian intransigence and endanger Israeli civilians, it would have been political suicide for Netanyahu to execute another one.
In "response," the PA released a new list of demands as a prerequisite for agreeing to resume being courted by the U.S. and Israel:
1) A written letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he acknowledges that the borders of the Palestinian state will be the 1967 borders, and that its capital will be east Jerusalem.
2) The release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners, among them political leader and terror masters Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat and Fuad Shobaki.
3) The removal of the blockade on Gaza and the implementation of an agreement on the border crossings.
3) An agreement to return the Church of the Nativity exiles -- Palestinians who laid siege to the church in 2002 and were deported to Gaza and Europe -- to the West Bank.
4) A halt of Israeli construction in east Jerusalem, and the reopening of the Palestinian institutions that Israel closed (such as Orient House, PLO headquarters during the 1980s and 1990s).
5) No IDF entry into Area A to arrest or kill wanted terrorists, and authorization to the PA to control those in Area C under full Israeli control.
6) The granting of Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians, as part of a family unification framework.
This list is a precondition for war, not peace -- other than one that Abbas may hope to reach with his rival terrorist brethren in Hamas. Speaking of which, on Thursday evening, four Qassam rockets landed in southern Israel, sparking an Israeli Air Force strike on terrorist bases in northern and central Gaza.
Thursday also marked the beginning of a series of "expert-level" meetings in Vienna to prepare for yet another round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany).
Like the PA leadership in Ramallah, the mullahs in Tehran are being courted by the West. In an attempt to reach an agreement at all costs, the U.S. and Europe are basically begging the Islamic Republic to accept a deal, by July 20, which would enable it to develop a "peaceful" nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of the sanctions that have been dealing a blow to its economy.
This is a signal to Iran and all its Palestinian and other proxies that the best way to defeat democratic enemies with military might is to negotiate them to death, first figuratively and then literally. If the Free World continues to abet the spread of this message, it will find itself forced to replace the pen of treaties with the sword of victory, but from a perilously weakened position.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the "Arab Spring.'"

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