The missing link in the peace process: Trust
By D. BLOOMFIELD
The newly surfaced tape made in 2001 of Netanyahu boasting of ‘killing the Oslo process’ does not bode well for anyone.
About the only thing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas have in common these days is a conviction that the other
is bluffing when he says he is ready to make peace. But so far neither has shown
the courage to call the other’s bluff.
Abbas seems to change his
conditions for moving to direct talks almost daily. The only thing that seems
certain is that he is in no hurry to meet Netanyahu face-to-face. It’s easy to
get the impression that he wants to stall long enough for the Obama
administration to get frustrated enough to step in with an American peace plan
that it will impose on Israel – not a likely scenario, despite the alarmed
e-mails of the Jewish right.
Netanyahu has never had much enthusiasm for
the peace process and only under great pressure and begrudgingly was he
compelled to endorse the two-state solution and adopt a 10-month
moratorium on West Bank construction.
Like Abbas, he also hopes the
Americans will grow frustrated with the stalled process, but instead of
in he wants Washington to walk away from a situation it deems hopeless.
to his supporters in the US to make the price of pressing for peace
unbearable for the administration, especially if Republicans do well in
November’s congressional elections.
NETANYAHU WAS in Washington this
month to make shalom with President Barack Obama after a year of rocky
that have created political problems at home for Obama but done nothing
advance the peace process. The two leaders declared a mutual desire to
between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and to move quickly to direct
negotiations. It was part of Netanyahu’s strategy to put the onus for
stalling on Abbas.
Obama declared, “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu
wants peace. I believe he is ready to take risks for peace.”
I don’t know
if he genuinely believed it, but I doubt he would have said that if he
a video that surfaced last weekend showing Netanyahu boasting how he had
snookered the Clinton administration – he called Clinton “radically
pro-Palestinian” – and derailed the Oslo peace process the first time he
prime minister a decade ago.
The newly surfaced tape was made in 2001,
two years after Netanyahu was defeated for reelection by Ehud Barak, who
his defense minister. He was speaking to a group of terror victims in
Bank settlement of Ofra and was unaware his comments were being
“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very
easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get their way,” he
the tape aired by Channel 10.
“They asked me before the election if I’d
honor [the Oslo accords],” he continued. “I said I would, but... I’m
interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to
galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what
military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far
concerned the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go
argue.” As a
result, he bragged, “I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.”
nine years ago. Is there a “New Bibi?” Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy
“Don’t try to claim that he has changed since then. Such a crooked way
thinking does not change over the years.” Netanyahu, he said, is “a con
who thinks “Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool
Netanyahu told Obama that he believes it is possible to reach an
agreement with the Palestinians by 2012, which just happens to be the
president’s target date and, coincidentally, in time for bragging rights
What he didn’t mention was that signing an agreement
is one thing (I’m not convinced Netanyahu really wants an agreement but
it useful to say so in light of Abbas’s continued refusal to confront
direct talks), implementing is another; that could take years, perhaps a
“Time is a crucial element both for security and for other
critical elements of a solution” and it is necessary to ”build in a time
to any type of solution,” Netanyahu told the Council on Foreign
Implementation must be gradual – the Egyptian peace treaty
took three years – but Netanyahu’s talk of the time element takes on new
significance in light of his boasting of how he killed the Oslo peace
By now Abbas has seen the tape and read the transcript, and must
feel some justification for his mistrust of Netanyahu and refusal to
Does Netanyahu think he snookered Obama the way he did
Clinton? What does this tape tell a president who already had serious
about Netanyahu’s sincerity? And does Obama really care, or has he
that with two such unwilling partners, peace negotiations aren’t worth
an investment by his administration?