Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday to wish him well on the occasion of Id al-Fitr. The holiday marking the end of Ramadan interests him about as much as classical ballet interests me. One can assume that the phone call was part of a super-sophisticated plan called “How to make my coalition parties think that Yitzhak Herzog is about to join them.”
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Mumble something about the students of David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who must be connected somehow; come up with a spin on Zehava Galon (on Friday this new journalist, who also heads Meretz, announced that Zionist Union won’t enter the coalition – because of her, of course); and let the reporters invent outlines and contacts and portfolios and agreements – do anything just as long as Arye Dery and Naftali Bennett fold when it comes to the budget.
But this time it was Abbas who was called. Surely some commentator will now say that this signals a return to the diplomatic process, and there you go: “Bougie” Herzog is en route to the foreign minister’s office.
Netanyahu’s failure in dealing with the Iranian issue, as evidenced by the Vienna agreement, will be barely a footnote in terms of the real settling of accounts that history will conduct with him. It will fault him for missing the boat with the best Palestinian partner we could hope for: Mahmoud Abbas.
Our greatest high-tech geniuses working in the most sophisticated laboratories could not invent a more comfortable Palestinian partner. A leader with no one to the left of him in the Palestinian political arena and one who, when his enemy Israel bombs his people in Gaza, comes out with a statement criticizing those who kidnap Israeli soldiers. A Palestinian leader who speaks out against delegitimization of Israel, a Palestinian leader who has spoken out for decades against armed resistance, against violence, against terror, and who fights against those trying to commit terror attacks. There is no other such Palestinian leader, nor will there ever be.
Not long ago someone from the Molad Institute (yes, yes, a leftist) told me they had done a survey, and the Israeli public was totally convinced about Abbas. What Ehud Barak said about him, what happened between Ehud Olmert and him, the endless inane campaigns of people like Dan Meridor and Tzipi Livni – all of this had worked: The Israeli public is certain that Abbas is no partner to dialog with Israel.
Also in the same study, the respondents were asked some hypothetical questions. On the assumption that Abbas would speak out publicly against violence, they were asked, would you then see him as a possible partner? The public was enthusiastic. Of course he could be a partner.
During the last election campaign I spoke with Livni and asked her when she would give a detailed report on what happened during the last round of negotiations with the Palestinians. This representative of the camp that believes in a diplomatic solution with that people ended the last round by blaming Abbas for the failure of the talks, saying, “He got cold feet.” I said: But you did not agree to speak about dividing Jerusalem or about refugees, and you did not present a map of potential borders. That’s called negotiations?
It seems that the fact that for six-and-half years Netanyahu refused to present his own proposal for a permanent arrangement was less problematic for Livni than Abbas’ “cold feet.”
During Ariel Sharon’s stint as prime minister there regular surveys were conducted that asked the same question: Would you agree to an arrangement along the lines of the Clinton plan? The conditions were listed – the division of Jerusalem, a Palestinian state almost along the 1967 lines, no right of return. Do you want to know the peak month of support for such an agreement? March 2002 – the bloodiest month of the second intifada, the month in which the terror attacks in the Park Hotel (which killed 30) and the Matza restaurant (16 dead) took place.
This support dropped significantly when the attacks abated. Unfortunately, it seems that the only language we understand is force.
Look at our opposition leaders today. Yair Lapid and Shelly Yacimovich are running to be interviewed about Iran and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement), because in their political scheme of things, it is written that they must position themselves as diplomatic and security leaders. Abbas? When force is used, we’ll call him, if he’s still around.
The writer is a journalist with Channel 10 news.