Headliners: Let the games begin!

A more accurate headline to the end of the Israeli-Palestinian talks would have been that the Palestinians abandoned the talks in Amman.

By MARCUS SHEFF
January 26, 2012 23:05
3 minute read.
Ashton and Erekat

Ashton and Erekat 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Thursday’s headlines trumpeting the end of the current Israeli-Palestinian talks did not come as a great surprise to the fatigued observers of this perennial diplomatic dance.

A more accurate headline would have been that the Palestinians abandoned the talks in Amman. Not that they showed any great enthusiasm for them in the first place, but the indecent haste with which they pronounced the talks a failure, jumped into their motorcade and headed off to Ramallah, was not in the best of taste.

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Moreover, the delegation’s refusal to hear IDF Brig.-Gen. Assaf Orion’s presentation on security arrangements was an exhibition of very poor will.

Security cooperation between the IDF and the Palestinian security forces is very good indeed. Much credit goes to the PA leadership for this, as it does to the IDF, Americans, Jordanians, the European Union and Tony Blair’s Quartet mission.

But security arrangements are a pillar of any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians – and an important issue for Israelis.

The relationship between IDF troop withdrawals and terror attacks has not been kind to Israel. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accords was followed by a series of terror atrocities on the streets of Israeli cities that left many dozens of Israelis slain and hundreds maimed.

Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis only intensified following Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton Parameters at the outbreak of the second intifada in late 2000.

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Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 saw hopes for peace and the building of a civil society in Gaza replaced by the violent rule of Islamist Hamas, funded and supported by Iran.

In 2004, the year before the Israeli pullback, 281 rockets were fired at Israelis.

By 2006 – the year following the IDF’s withdrawal – that figure more than tripled to 946 rocket attacks. By 2009, some 11,000 rockets and mortar shells had terrorized ordinary people living in the communities of southern Israel.

This was hardly a great advert for the withdrawal of IDF troops without ironclad security arrangements in place.

The recent Amman talks were promoted as low-level but the refusal by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to discuss security arrangements brought them down to the lowest level possible.

Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s repeated calls for direct negotiations, The Associated Press was quick to editorialize on Thursday that he is “a reluctant latecomer to the idea of Palestinian statehood” and quoted a Palestinian representative as saying that he is “seeking negotiations as a diplomatic shield, with no real intention of reaching an agreement.”

And so the blame game begins.

According to Palestinian radio on Thursday, the PA’s Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki will be visiting the five newest member states of the UN Security Council, “to update them on the Amman talks [read, the failure of the talks is Israel’s fault] and to ask them to take a more positive position on Palestinian membership in the UNSC.”

Erekat is poised to spell out the Palestinian position on the talks at the Herzliya Conference next Wednesday.

This impatient rush to begin Round Two of the Palestinian quest for a unilateral declaration of independence at the United Nations is unseemly. It indicates that the Palestinian leadership had little-to-no interest in the Amman talks succeeding and is committed to embarrassing Israel, the United States and leading European countries in the international arena.

PA President Abbas’s approval ratings shot up in the West Bank and Gaza following his hard-line speech to the UN General Assembly in September. Clearly, erasing any Jewish connection to the Holy Land is good politics. And with the PA in financial crisis, another good speech might be just what is required.

As news emanates from the Palestinian media of demonstrations, marches and strikes being planned and as the highly sophisticated Palestinian PR machine prepares its narrative of Israel’s failure to negotiate, it is never too late to remind the world that there is no substitute for a genuine commitment to an negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

The writer is the executive director of the Israel Office of The Israel Project.

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