Wanted: A responsible peace process (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Zalman Shoval 05/15/12)
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A recent news article reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that now that Kadima
has joined the coalition, there is no excuse for peace talks with the
Palestinians to remain stalled. One can infer from this that
Washington believes the Israeli government is at fault for the lack
of progress up until now.
Of course, we donít know if the quote that was reported exactly
reflects the tone of their discussion, but a Washington Post article
by columnist Fareed Zakaria, known for his strong ties to the U.S.
administration, has hinted at a similar message: Israel is stronger
than ever, both in its domestic political situation and militarily.
Therefore, if Netanyahu wants to "become a truly great figure in
Israeli history" he must take "bolder steps toward resolution" and
solve the Palestinian problem.
One can surmise then that not only is the U.S. administration
ignoring the real reasons why negotiations are deadlocked between
Israel and the Palestinians, but that it intends, if President Barack
Obama remains in power after elections in November, to return to the
diplomatic policy that characterized it at the beginning of its first
term. In other words, it intends to pressure Israel (despite Obama´s
subsequent admission that this was a mistake).
The Palestinians, moreover, will see this as a golden opportunity to
come in from the proverbial diplomatic cold, where they have been
since their unilateral appeal to the U.N., against the wishes of the
U.S. They will be further encouraged to entrench themselves in
positions that have thus far hindered the renewal of talks.
Washington knows the facts: The Palestinian Authority is demanding
that Israel concede, ahead of final-status talks and without debate,
to its extreme demands onborders and construction beyond the Green
Line, including in Jerusalem. The PA views these demands not as
issues it can raise during talks but as preconditions for entering
into them. It goes without saying that while the Palestinians are
listing their demands, they are simultaneously unwilling to consider
measures such as revoking their "right of return" claims or even
accepting Israel´s legitimate request to recognize it as the home of
the Jewish people.
Perhaps in order to mask their intransigence, the Palestinians have
acquiesced to American pleas to issue a joint statement with Israel
that they are committed to the peace process.
The time has come, however, for Washington (as well as some circles
in Israel), to remove the guise and understand that the Palestinians´
conduct is not tactical but strategic. Meaning, the less desirable
thing from their perspective is to enter into peace negotiations that
will lead to concessions and compromises from their side as well.
They are unwilling or unable to adopt a real strategic policy shift
whose repercussions would be hard to gauge both in the Palestinian
domestic arena and internationally.
Regardless, it would be a mistake and it would be misleading to bind
the government´s actions on the Palestinians to seeming
considerations about the coalition´s "survival." The unity government
was established due to legitimate political and national
considerations. The coalition agreement between the Likud and Kadima
calls for "promoting a responsible peace." This means promoting a
real peace process instead of engaging in farcical negotiations or
caving in to ultimatums that damage Israel´s essential interests, as
well as the chances for peace.
This principle guides both Netanyahu and newly appointed Vice Prime
Minister Shaul Mofaz, and it is safe to assume it guides most of the
Israeli public as well.
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