Call it a day

Amid shifting sands in Middle East, new president in Egypt, Clinton will be in our neck of the woods next week.

Clinton with Abbas during 2010 Ramallah visit 370 (R) (photo credit: Fadi Arouri / Reuters)
Clinton with Abbas during 2010 Ramallah visit 370 (R)
(photo credit: Fadi Arouri / Reuters)
Amid shifting sands in the Middle East and a new president in Egypt, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in our neck of the woods on Monday as part of a larger trip to the region to discuss the possible revival of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. But the sun might rise in the west, since it’s a slim chance that any progress will be made as the issue is currently dead in the water.
After bending over backwards for years in efforts to get down to the nuts and bolts and bring peace to the Middle East, the US is flogging a dead horse as the Palestinians continue to pass the buck, beat around the bush and refuse to cut to the chase.
While it takes two to tango, both sides point fingers at each other. Israel is not relieved of at least some of the blame for its inability to restart talks, but the general assumption by the coalition is that all avenues have been explored and, ever since the last-ditch effort to draw the Palestinians to the table by freezing settlements was ignored, it appears they’ve called it a day until Israel again freezes settlements – which is a no-go at this point.
For now, the government appears to say, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell. The government has taken the position that negotiations can only begin if there are no strings attached.
So, while there is no time like the present, for now the Palestinians are, unwisely, without rhyme or reason, letting the grass grow around their feet.
Israel has long come to terms with the fact that to achieve the reality of having a peaceful neighbor, certain concessions need to be made and if there’s no pain, there’s no gain. The Palestinians have yet to internalize this. There’s nothing ventured and nothing gained by not talking.
The pen is mightier than the sword, but senior PA and Israeli officials have already warned of a third intifada breaking out.
The Palestinian refusal to get back to talks is a recipe for disaster.
For much of the world, the penny still hasn’t dropped as to what this conflict is all about; many countries are not so blind as those who will not see, and few understand the nature of the beast.
It was the Bush administration that finally shunned Arafat after he showed his true colors when he was caught with his pants down during the Karine A incident in which a ship laden with arms likely en route to Gaza was intercepted by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea. This incident, considered by then-secretary of state Colin Powell to be a “pretty big smoking gun” but a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of weapons being smuggled into Gaza and the West Bank, convinced the US that Arafat was a leopard who could not change his spots.
By focusing on the 1949 armistice lines as a starting point for negotiations, the Obama administration has forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas between a rock and a hard place. He won’t make any concessions now at the drop of a hat. Ever since talks gathered steam and then broke down in 2010, Abbas has refused to go out on a limb and go the extra mile to get back to the drawing board.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu got short shrift when he sat down with President Barack Obama, and it was clear from the start of both of their terms in office that they were not on the same page, they don’t see eye to eye and are poles apart with regard to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Obama was a bit wet behind the ears in the beginning of his presidency, but with issues in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Egypt, it appears he’s learning fast that the world spins in a different direction.
Both leaders are walking on eggshells and need to walk a tightrope, as they must rise above their supposed mutual dislike for each other and focus on more important issues at hand.
The $64,000 question that Clinton needs to ask Abbas when she sees him today in Paris is whether he can deliver, instead of adding fuel to the fire by making more demands. He may have gotten close to a deal with former prime minister Ehud Olmert, but it was no cigar, and thereafter talks took a nosedive.
The Europeans and the Americans have long seen the conflict through rose-colored glasses and have had their tails up about the progress they believe they can achieve by bringing the two sides together.
But it’s a rocky road. They have been taken for a ride by the Palestinians and are barking up the wrong tree as they attempt to pressure Israel to make further concessions in order to jump-start talks.
The peaceful Palestinian state that the US and Europe envision is a castle in the air as long as they fail to get their heads around the issue and realize that the conflict is not about land but about religion.
They’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes. They need to wake up and smell the coffee. The issue of settlements or settler violence or border crossings is paper over the cracks. There’s the rub. The world has put the cart before the horse and has gotten the nature of the conflict all wrong.
The proof is in the pudding, and since the time when Israel tested the waters by leaving Gaza and part of the northern West Bank in 2005, it has become abundantly clear that the “conflict-is-aboutland” ship has sailed.
Israel won’t be led up a blind alley. It expects the Palestinians to pull up their socks, get their hands dirty, get cracking on tackling incitement and put a stop to weapons smuggling.
Otherwise, there can be no give-and-take in negotiations, there will be no light at the end of the tunnel and that glimmer of hope for a peace agreement won’t stand a ghost of a chance.
It’s anyone’s call what the future holds, but perhaps one day a peaceful Palestinian state will exist alongside Israel. The US and Europe can talk about the conflict until the cows come home, but one thing is for sure: it won't be smooth sailing or a piece of cake. After all, Rome was not built in a day.
A Palestinian state may very well be born into existence, but nobody will smoke the peace pipe as long as the Palestinians put up smoke and mirrors, spin a yarn and continue the violence and incitement.
After all, actions speak louder than words.
For the time being, Elvis has left the building.