Douglas M. Bloomfield 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leaks from unnamed aides to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claim he has
shifted positions on another critical peace process issue – borders – but so far
there’s no official confirmation. It appears to be a tactical move to derail the
Palestinian strategy for a UN statehood resolution next month, and it could work
if the Israeli leader can convince Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
that he is serious.
But there’s the rub. He has a serious credibility
problem, not just with Abbas but with US President Barack Obama, most foreign
leaders and now hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
They don’t know what
he has in mind. Privately his aides have been in touch with Obama administration
officials and representatives of the Mideast Quartet headed by Tony Blair, who
are also searching for a formula to convince Abbas to drop his UN
Netanyahu is demanding a quid pro quo, aides are telling Israeli
media. He will acknowledge the 1967 Green Line as the reference point for
negotiations of future borders if the Palestinians will agree to ultimately
recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
That is something Abbas has long
opposed but must do if he is to convince Israelis that negotiations will lead to
a final-status agreement that will end the conflict and all Arab claims against
While Abbas appears determined to go ahead with his September 20
target for requesting UN recognition, he faces opposition from senior
Palestinian figures, including his own prime minister, who feel he is risking
critical relations with the Obama administration and Congress in exchange for a
feel-good moment that will make no substantive changes on the
THERE IS less to Netanyahu’s “concession” than meets the eye. The
Green Line has been the reference point – not a final target – for negotiations
since UN Security Council Resolution 242 was passed following the 1967 war, and
it has been US policy ever since. It was also acknowledged by previous prime
ministers, including Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s present defense minister, more than
a decade ago.
When Obama reiterated that policy in May during an Oval
Office meeting, Netanyahu deliberately distorted what the president said and
rudely lectured him about defensible borders. Obama never called for a return to
the ’67 lines, as Netanyahu implied, only that they be a reference point and
that there be mutual land swaps.
That is the same as George W. Bush’s
approach, according to Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, and
Netanyahu knew it.
But the prime minister’s performance – not
unintentionally – ignited a firestorm of attacks on Obama as trying to force
Israel to “retreat” behind “Auschwitz borders.”
That may have temporarily
boosted Netanyahu’s poll numbers at home and encouraged anti-Obama attacks here,
but it was another body blow to the prime minister’s stature and credibility
Palestinians latched on to the incident as an
opportunity to side with the Americans against Netanyahu by demanding that he
accept the Obama formula, which is what the prime minister’s aides now tell
reporters he is finally ready to do. But will the Palestinians take yes for an
answer? Abbas’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, reportedly told Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton that if Netanyahu accepted the Obama formula, the PA
leader would be ready to resume negotiations.
But don’t be surprised if
he reneges on that and renews his longstanding demand that Israel freeze all
construction beyond the ’67 lines, including in east Jerusalem, where the
Netanyahu government just gave the go-ahead to build hundreds of new
SOME ON the Jewish far Right who routinely accuse Israel’s Jewish
critics of meddling where they don’t belong suddenly made an about-face and
began lecturing Netanyahu about his “strategic error” and “dangerous
concession.” Accepting the 1967 border reference point, said one perennially
angry voice, is “the last thing Israel should be doing.”
shown a proclivity for exhausting all the alternatives before making difficult
ideological decisions. He opposed the Oslo Accords, the land-for-peace
principle, the two-state solution, a settlement freeze and the border formula.
By the time he came around, grudgingly, he had squandered any goodwill he might
have gained. People remembered his “no, no, no,” and that overshadowed his
Abbas should quickly take up Netanyahu’s offer to go to Ramallah
for negotiations, but I see no evidence that the Palestinian leader is serious
about resuming talks. If he were, he could have done it long ago instead of
embarking on his inflammatory UN strategy, complete with planned demonstrations,
that is raising false hopes and could too easily erupt in violence.
leaders should remember President John F.
Kennedy’s successful strategy
in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. JFK ignored the things Nikita Khrushchev said
that he didn’t like and embraced those he did. Netanyahu has given Abbas an
opportunity to declare victory – accept the offer to make the Green Line a
reference point, cancel his UN application and invite Netanyahu to
Opportunity is knocking. Does he have the courage to open the
door? Then we’ll find out who is serious and who is email@example.com