Washington Watch: A peace quiz

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?

PEACE SYMBOLS adorn a fence. 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PEACE SYMBOLS adorn a fence. 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 side.
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 “senior” prisoners.
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.
b. To 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 policy.
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 sovereignty.
b. Any settlement construction is a rallying cry for Israel’s critics.
c. Each side uses settlement announcements for its own political purposes but nothing is changed.
5. How important are these peace talks?
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 peace.
6. How could anyone be opposed to resolving this longstanding conflict?
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 peace?
a. Because of these two reluctant leaders.
b. The Middle East is place of overblown rhetoric and missed opportunities.
d. Because 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 Court.
9. Why did Netanyahu pick a former partisan Republican operative and neocon to be his ambassador to Washington rather than a top diplomat?
a. He 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.
b. 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 are.
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 can survive.
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 [email protected]