Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R).
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
John Kerry is returning to Israel for another "decisive" round of talks. The tension is high, Kerry is anxious and trigger happy, ready to pressure both sides to make tough decisions. All of a sudden a "senior" Likud minister claims that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to withdraw from 90 percent of the West Bank 'in exchange for security." So why didn't you say so, Bibi?
The truth is, he did. He told just about everyone who was willing to listen. From President Peres to President Obama and every European he came across.
In his "peace" speeches at Bar-Ilan University, in the Knesset and the US Congress, Netanyahu emphasized these principles. He said he has no problem giving up land and that he is willing to give up Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley (but to maintain a military presence there for a period of time.) And yet, settlers have no real reason at this stage to start packing, and peace-lovers, whose numbers have been dwindling, have no reason to start dreaming. Because for Netanyahu, there are light years between what he says and what he does. He was always very strong with words. It was just translating words into actions that was a little bit hard for him.
So where do we stand? Accelerated contacts are being made behind the scenes.
Both sides - Bibi on one side and Abu Mazen on the other - agree that failure could lead to a strong American reaction, and possibly an overall deterioration. And neither side wants to be remembered as the one responsible for this.
According to sources that are in the know, three meetings between Netanyahu and Abu-Mazen have been set to take place over the next few weeks. Is Netanyahu really capable of succeeding as well as Olmert did? Or as well as Barak? Or can he at least say something to convince Abu Mazen that he has a real partner to work with?
I wish I could give a positive answer to this question. I'm not sure if Bibi doesn¹t want to, but I'm quite convinced that he simply can't. By the way, Abu Mazen can't really either. He doesn't have any real power. The Gaza Strip doesn't recognize his authority and his mandate in the West Bank is limited. And if Abu-Mazen ran away from Olmert's proposition, is there any likelihood that he'd agree to Netanyahu's? What I do know is that the prime minister of Israel has no support staff around him, no behind-the-scenes professionals who quietly get things done, or friends to lean on. In this type of situation, in the aquarium also known as the Prime Minister's Office, every sardine looks like a shark.
On the other hand, there have been signs that show that just the opposite is true. The mere fact that Netanyahu frequently conducts military patrols, threatens everything around him that moves, and is constantly giving lengthy lectures about "security needs" proves that he is always in need of self-encouragement and approval. To justify the steps he's considering taking in the name of peace. As if he were saying, hey I'm not the worthless peacenik they make me out to be.
It's hard enough for him as it is. For example, there is the forgotten Wye Plantation Summit, which cost many of its participants their health (mainly Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Mordechai.) Finally, Netanyahu was willing to sign the agreement, according to which Israel would withdraw from a small piece of land (which included a "nature reserve") and when everything at the summit concluded and Bibi flew back home, something must have bitten him during the flight because he destroyed everything the moment he was back on Israeli soil. The Wye Agreement was not implemented and Netanyahu paid the price by losing in the next election.
If Netanyahu really wanted to renew negotiations, he would have to clearly state that they could be held on the basis of the 1967 borders, land swaps and border adjustments notwithstanding. This is the exact meaning of the words that the "senior" minister leaked to Haaretz
. But Netanyahu is not capable of saying those words. His genetics won't allow for it. So he speaks in riddles and dispatches messengers. Every word he says is said in preparation for the charges that will come the "day after," at which point Bibi will be able to prove that what he had really wanted to do was___and that what he was really thinking was___and what I said was____and I tried to____but I didn't succeed.Translated by Hannah Hochner.