Monday, May 19, 2014

US official: Obama blames settlements for failed talks

Ted Belman 

As I wrote in my article Israel must continue to build east of the greenline.:
Were Israel to agree to stop building for ever, she would be put at a disadvantage for ever. The Arabs, with the support of the EU and the US, would continue building in violation of Oslo and would avoid making painful concessions forever. On the other hand, were Israel to offer to cease constructions for one year to give negotiations a chance, on the condition that if no agreement is consummated in that time frame, then Israel would be fully within her rights to build in Area C, no one would agree to this deal. What’s really at stake here, is to get Israel to give up any of her rights to Judea and Samaria before a deal has been negotiated.
When Obama endorsed the ’67 lines plus swaps, he was denying Israel’s the right to build. Put another way, he can’t concede Israel’s right to build because it would conflict with the TSS. Ted Belman
In Blaming Israel to Preserve a Theory, Jonathan Tobin put it this way:
The reason for this obfuscation is not a mystery. Acknowledging the truth about the collapse of the talks would force Kerry and his State Department minions to admit that their theory about how to achieve peace has been wrong all along. It was primarily the Palestinians’ refusal to make the symbolic step of recognizing that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people that would live in peace alongside a nation state of the Palestinian people that sunk the talks. But acknowledging that would mean they understood that the political culture of the Palestinians — in which national identity is inextricably tied to rejection of Israel’s existence — must change before peace is possible. Israel, which has already made large-scale territorial withdrawals in the hope of peace, has already dismantled settlements and would uproot more if real peace were to be had. Moreover, since most of the building that Kerry and company were blamed for the lack of peace, are located in areas that would be kept by Israel, the obsession with them is as illogical as it is mean spirited.
A senior Obama administration official told The New York Times on Thursday, however, that the assessment (Indyk to Barnea) may as well have been provided by the US president himself. The official claimed that the White House had “cleared the interview” with Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea, and that “the critical remarks faithfully reflect the president’s own views.”

The unnamed senior official said that Obama believes, more than any other factor, that Israeli announcements of construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem throughout the nine months of talks led to the negotiations’ collapse.

“At every juncture, there was a settlement announcement,” said the official. “It was the thing that kept throwing a wrench in the gears.”
According to the Times report, “it is unlikely that Mr. Obama will lay down principles for resolving the conflict, as he did in May 2011 after his last major effort to forge a peace agreement deal foundered. At that time, he proposed a formula for negotiating the borders of a new Palestinian state.”
According to the official, the US president believes that there is still time for another peace push before he leaves office, but Obama is determined to wait for the Israelis and Palestinians to approach Washington with ideas of their own for reviving the process.
In their anonymous comments to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Barnea, US officials indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and they warned Israel that the Palestinians would achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence.
The Americans said they had intended to begin the nine-month negotiating period with an Israeli announcement of a settlement freeze. But this proved impossible, an American official was quoted saying, “because of the current makeup of the Israeli government, so we gave up… We didn’t realize [that] continuing construction allowed ministers in [Netanyahu's] government to very effectively sabotage the success of the talks. There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth: the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.
“At this point, it’s very hard to see how the negotiations could be renewed, let alone lead to an agreement,” the Americans continued. “Towards the end, Abbas demanded a three-month freeze on settlement construction. His working assumption was that if an accord is reached, Israel could build along the new border as it pleases. But the Israelis said no.”
The New York Times report on Thursday indicated that Obama realized the degree of the impasse in negotiations after a March meeting with Abbas in Washington.
In that meeting, the US president attempted to convince the Palestinian leader to agree to principles in Secretary of State John Kerry’s unpublished framework agreement. Abbas did not respond, and instead chose to reiterate his rejection of Israel’s demand to be recognized by the Palestinians as a Jewish state.
“The president was skeptical about a deal after that meeting,” the senior official said. “Abbas was more comfortable pivoting to public grievance than focusing on a private negotiation.”
Kerry has yet to decide whether to make public the principles he incorporated into his framework accord.

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