Today marks two months since the Washington Summit, during which the resumption of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians was announced. Expectations for the success of the process were low, but the pathetic result has surprised even the pessimists. The refusal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze has led the Palestinians to manifest their threat to pull out of the talks. Netanyahu also rejected the U.S. president’s proposal to extend the freeze for an additional 60 days in return for American security and diplomatic guarantees to Israel.
Netanyahu has reverted to the well-known behavior of using excuses to justify political inactivity, all the while playing the blame game with the Palestinians. His refusal to extend the freeze he justified as “preserving his credibility” and blamed it on coalition pressures. He claimed that “building in Judea and Samaria will not affect the peace map,” as if the settlements were not meant to establish facts which will foil the division of the land. His public proposal of a temporary freeze in exchange for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State appears to be a populist maneuver, and as expected, was rejected.
Netanyahu is in no rush. He is waiting for the mid-term elections in the United States tomorrow, and then to the passing of the budget in Israel. Meanwhile, he will continue wasting time with empty calls to the Palestinians to return to the negotiations, without putting forth any political initiative or showing willingness for compromise, while continuing construction beyond the Green Line. His decision to reject Barack Obama’s proposal suggests that he is preparing for a confrontation with the U.S. administration in which he will try to rally to his side the President’s rivals in Congress. His stance has already led to significant disagreement with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is among the most important supporters of Israel in the international community.
At the Washington Summit, Netanyahu declared that he came to make peace and not to quarrel, because “in the blame game you win but you also lose”. He is now obliged to prove himself. Instead of looking for successful excuses Netanyahu needs to freeze settlement construction and enter serious discussions on the core issues, with the borders topping the list, in an effort to reach a settlement. Otherwise, even if he wins the blame game, Israel will be the one who will lose.
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