Rattling the Cage: The brave, visionary leader - and Bibi

What does the world see from the current Israeli leadership (in contrast to the previous one)? Intransigence.

By LARRY DERFNER
January 26, 2011 23:22
4 minute read.
Larry Derfner

Larry Derfner. (photo credit: Larry Derfner)

With all the different takes on Al- Jazeera’s “PaliLeaks” documents, one thing I think is beyond debate: Never in history have Palestinian leaders seemed so moderate, so flexible, so accommodating to Israel.

All the issues the Palestinian Authority negotiators supposedly would not budge on, they more than budged on – they took very long steps toward meeting the Olmert government’s positions on Palestinian refugees, the Temple Mount, the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, settlements and borders.

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All the allegedly sacred, nonnegotiable, door- die demands of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his team turn out to be quite negotiable. And if that’s not enough, on their commitment to fighting terror, they’re shown to be firmly, actively, eagerly on Israel’s side against Hamas.

None of this comes as a big surprise to anyone but badly informed Palestinians, which is why the 1,600 documents leaked by Al- Jazeera are recognized as credible, despite the PA’s denials. (Maybe especially in light of the PA’s denials.)

The Western world now sees very vividly that the current Palestinian leadership was serious about negotiating peace. And what does it see from the current Israeli leadership (in contrast to the previous one) ?

Intransigence. Even now. The Netanyahu government’s case against Abbas is that he’s rigid, he refuses to negotiate, and now that Abbas is shown to have been so flexible a negotiator that he’s being called a quisling, who’s the rigid one?

Our fearless leader, Nyetanyahu. In his eyes, the glass of Palestinian moderation isn’t 95 percent full, it’s 5% empty.



The PA agrees to “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history,” in negotiator Saeb Erekat’s words – they accept Israeli sovereignty over every Jewish neighborhood in post-1967 Jerusalem except Har Homa, and how does the Prime Minister’s Office spin it? By pointing to Abbas’s demand for a construction freeze in these neighborhoods, then crowing that the leaks show this demand to be “ridiculous.”

Wrote Yediot Aharonot’s Nahum Barnea: “It turns out that Netanyahu is the first prime minister of Israel to ridicule the Palestinians for their willingness to concede.”

THE WORLD now has a good idea of Abbas’s “map” – his proposal for dividing the land between Palestine and Israel – as well as the map proposed by the Olmert government. But what is Netanyahu’s map? No one knows, except that it includes all of Jerusalem, both the Jewish and Arab parts. As for the West Bank, if Netanyahu is willing to give the Palestinians even an inch of it, he’s never said so publicly and there’s no record of him saying this privately, either. He’s wiped a decade of peace negotiations off the table, and just can’t understand why the Palestinians aren’t eager to start again with him from square one.

This week, with Al-Jazeera doing its thing, Abbas, Erekat and the rest of the PA are under fire from outraged Palestinians; they’re trying to hold back all those who are unwilling to concede – and what’s the conclusion in Jerusalem? That the Palestinian leadership “has not prepared its people for peace, reconciliation and the compromise required.”

In other words, Abbas shouldn’t have waited for Al-Jazeera, he should have gone public with the kinds of concessions he was offering, he should have exposed himself to the cries of “collaborator” a long time ago. The problem, in official Israel’s view, is that the PA leadership just hasn’t had the courage to take risks for peace.

This will play, of course, in most parts of Israel, in the right wing of Diaspora Jewry and in the US Congress – but nowhere else. In the rest of the democratic world, the PA’s stock has just gone way up and Israel’s has taken yet another dive. (Except for Tzipi Livni, who emerges as the Israeli heroine of this story, a potential partner with Abbas for peace.)

The tragedy is that the PA leadership, this brave and visionary group, may not survive the effect of PaliLeaks. If Abbas and his people are brought down, they will be replaced by Palestinian leaders who will never remotely approach the kinds of concessions that the Al-Jazeera documents reveal.

If the leaders of the democratic world had Abbas’s courage, they would lay into the Netanyahu government right now, they would single it out as the obstacle to peace, they would tell this Israeli leadership to either resume negotiations where they left off under Olmert, or the days of diplomatic niceties are over and the ones of naming and shaming begin.

That’s not going to happen, though, because the leaders of the democratic world don’t have courage. What’s much more likely to happen is that Abbas, sooner or later, will be finished, he’ll be replaced by Hamas or other radicals and the glass of hope for peace will truly be empty, completely.

And later, in retrospect, which national leader will be remembered for his intransigence? Which national leader’s vision will be remembered for having been ridiculous?


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