The Israeli right wing had banked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s politically incorrect bluntness to expose the Palestinian rejectionist stance. But it seems the rejectionism that has been exposed is actually that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, Trump told the secretary general of the United Nations last month, is more difficult than Abbas in moving ahead on peace.
At that UN General Assembly gathering, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi made an emotional appeal to the Palestinians, urging them to unify so as not to miss the opportunity. To the Israelis, he said Egypt’s experience in making peace with Israel is “wonderful and unique and can be repeated by solving the problems of the Palestinians.” Sissi’s call for Palestinian unity is not lip service. His remarks followed the return of a Hamas delegation from a visit to Cairo, one that led to a subsequent visit of representatives of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza and the launching of talks on reconciliation between the two sides, which will continue next week in Cairo.
Sissi has long been determined to jump-start the peace process. But it seems that as Trump saw, there is no serious partner on the Israeli side. Last year Sissi met secretly with Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog, after which the two Israeli politicians held talks on a unity government. Everyone remembers how the “talks” ended: a sharp right turn by Netanyahu and the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister.
In light of the seriousness shown by Sissi, and the first fruits his efforts have borne, the response of the Israeli government is shameful: “We will not accept any fake reconciliations,” Netanyahu said disparagingly of the PA-Hamas meeting in Gaza, as if Israel does not use the Palestinian rift to undermine Abbas’ legitimacy. Netanyahu then presented a list of conditions; only if these were met would he be satisfied. Education Minister Naftali Bennett also called for the transfer of funds to the Palestinians to be stopped.
While the Palestinians are cooperating with Egypt on reconciliation – which, if it succeeds, would be enormously significant to the Palestinian leadership and the future of Gaza, where living conditions are almost unfit for human beings, and help renew the peace process – the Israelis continue to play the same broken record and refuse to give change a real chance.
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