Israeli and Palestinian negotiators adjourned their latest round of peace talks
after five hours last week saying only they’d meet again soon. The meeting was
leak-free and shrouded in secrecy, and that’s a very good sign. On the other
hand, there is neither a sense of urgency nor any lack of sniping by either
What we’re seeing so far raises many unanswered questions. Here are
a few, in a multiple choice test on the meaning of what we’re seeing so far.
More than one answer may be correct in each case.
1. If Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu is as serious about peace as he says, why announce more than
1,000 new housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank just as talks begin?
a. To overshadow any Palestinian celebration over Israel’s release of 26
b. As a sop to the Israeli Right to offset anger
about the prisoner deal.
c. To humiliate PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas by
showing he’d failed to get the freeze he demanded, and possibly provoke him to
scuttle the talks as he did the last time.
d. To poke the EU in the eye
for its vote to boycott settlements.
2. If Palestinians are serious about
peace why did Abbas and the PLO leadership threaten this week to charge Israel
with “war crimes, anti-human, racist acts and violations of international laws?”
a. In response to the latest settlement construction announcements.
protest the “Judaization of Jerusalem.”
c. Because they feel Israel is
not serious about mak ing peace.
d. Because they’re not serious about
making peace and looking for an exit.
3. If Secretary of State John Kerry
knew in advance that Israel agreed to limit but not freeze building, why did he
protest the construction and call it illegitimate?
a. That’s always been US
b. To mollify Abbas.
c. To remind Netanyahu to keep
construction to a minimum and not use it as a provocation.
d. To give
Netanyahu cover with the settler lobby.
4. How significant is this round
of planned settlement building?
a. It is only symbolic since it will take place
in areas the Palestinians agreed in prior talks would be under Israeli
b. Any settlement construction is a rallying cry for
c. Each side uses settlement announcements for its own
political purposes but nothing is changed.
5. How important are these
a. Very – to Kerry.
b. Not very to the others, judging by
their reluctance, rhetoric and lack of urgency.
c. If the US is happy
and keeps the aid flowing, that’s good enough for both.
d. The two sides
seem more interested in collecting markers for the blame game than making real
6. How could anyone be opposed to resolving this longstanding
a. Are you kidding?
b. Each side has its anti-peace lobby made up of
hardliners who think any compromise with the hated enemy is unacceptable, and
they’re willing to kill.
7. Why is this being called the last chance for
a. Because of these two reluctant leaders.
b. The Middle East is
place of overblown rhetoric and missed opportunities.
frustration and failure could ignite a third intifada.
8. How serious is
Netanyahu when he says he wants peace?
a. He is genuinely concerned about the
demographic threat and the possibility of a binational state.
b. He is
counting on Abbas, who he feels is even less committed than he is, to scuttle
the whole exercise and absorb most of the blame.
c. He needed to agree in
order to repair relations with Obama and to maintain administration leader ship
in blocking Iran’s nuclear program.
d. He is worried about Israel’s
growing international isolation.
e. He wants to head off Palestinian
charges against Israel at the United Nations and in the International Criminal
9. Why did Netanyahu pick a former partisan Republican operative
and neocon to be his ambassador to Washington rather than a top diplomat?
wants someone who will work closely with the GOP to go after Obama when the
prime minister thinks the administration is pressing too hard on the peace talks
or not hard enough on Iran.
b. To show his contempt for the Foreign
Ministry and Israel’s diplomatic corps.
c. The new envoy is a loyal aide
and loyalty trumps all other considerations.
10. Is Netanyahu right when
he says the Palestinians are not ready for peace because they are divided
between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza?
a. Yes. Hamas will reject
anything these negotiations produce, and very likely with violence.
That’s the Palestinians’ problem. Sign an agree ment with Israel and it’s their
job to bring their side together, not for Israel to define who they
c. They will hold a referendum or elections for new leadership to
resolve that problem before ratifying a peace agreement.
11. Who does
Mahmoud Abbas represent?
a. The PLO’s old guard.
b. The West Bank-based
secular Palestinian national movement.
c. All the Palestinian people in
the West Bank, Gaza and their diaspora.
d. No one really knows because he
keeps postponing elections.
12. Do you agree with Netanyahu that peace is
not possible before the Iranian nuclear issue is resolved?
a. Yes, with the
nuclear threat and the Iranian backing for Hamas, Hezbollah and terror, no deal
b. No, that’s just an excuse for delay. Iran has its hands
full with Syria and Iraq, international sanctions, increasing isolation, growing
domestic unrest and a failing economy. Besides, they’ve said they’ll accept any
deal the Palestinians accept.
13. Even if Netanyahu comes to an agreement
with Abbas, can he get it ratified?
a. No. Not by his right-wing coalition and
probably not even by the leadership of his own Likud party.
b. Yes, by
forming a new pro-peace coalition with centrist and center-left parties. He has
committed to submitting any agreement to a referendum and polls indicate broad
public support for a two-state solution.©2013 Douglas M. Bloomfield