The summit of cynicism

Have we reached the summit of cynicism?

[Can we get any more cynical?]

Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharov wrote on his Haaretz blog Sunday that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume direct negotiations with Israel on September 2 in Washington without any of his preconditions being met. Israel has not promised to end construction in the settlements, and the Quartet’s statement does not even mention this issue. Contrary to the demand that the Quartet’s announcement would constitute the framework for the talks, U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell was quick to make it clear this is not the way things will be. One of the leading analysts in the Palestinian media described how Abbas was forced to climb down from uncompromising stance with a term normally reserved to describe the defeat of the Arab armies during the Six-Day War. Abbas succumbed to Arab-American dictate, the analyst said, despite never having missed a chance to reiterate during the year that ‘there will be no direct negotiations without complete freeze of settlements’ … The Palestinian Authority depends on foreign economic aid and the willingness of the U.S. to pressure countries to keep the money flowing. Abbas was concerned that the Americans would, at some point, stop economic aid. In spite of opposition at home, Abbas knows that the bottom line is he could survive different opinions but not an end to economic aid. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said on Saturday that if Israel resumes settlement construction, the direct talks will stop. This will probably be the case, but at this stage, it would probably be wiser for senior PLO officials to cease climbing tall trees from which they are not sure how to climb down”.  This can be read in full here.

Does this reporter believe that the U.S. will cut off aid to the Palestinians, but not to Israel? That could, of course, hypothetically happen — but it is unlikely.

UPDATE: U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that continuation of what is essentially a non-existent settlement freeze beyond its 26 September expiry date will be high on the list of topics to be addressed in the Israeli-Palestinian summit talks in Washington on 1-2 September.

YNet reporters have written today that “The PA does not believe the talks will have any concrete results, but hopes the process may bring it closer to the international community and perhaps lead the UN Security Council to recognize it as an independent state. ‘We will try to avoid any confrontations so that by August of next year we will be able to put a Palestinian state, with its established institutions, on the UN Security Council and the world powers’ agenda, so that for the first time in history they will accept their responsibility for the Palestinians’, one official said”.   This is posted here

Do PA officials believe that the entire Palestinian population is ready to be fooled by this approach, yet again?

UPDATE: Reuters reported earlier that this forthcoming summit “inspires little hope among Palestinians who say the prospect of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel seems no more than a dream. ‘There has been a lot of talk of peace, but we have seen no results. We no longer have hope’, said 30-year old Luay Kabbah, who was still at school when Palestinian and Israeli leaders first began talking peace nearly two decades ago”. The Reuters report added that “Today, the idea of that state emerging in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — the leadership’s stated goal — seems almost far-fetched to many Palestinians. They say their hopes have been eroded by Israeli policies, the United States’ failure to force Israel into concessions and the failings of their own leaders, who have grown ever weaker and more divided since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004. Rival Palestinian governments have emerged in Gaza and the West Bank, creating a divide that has complicated what was already one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. For now, avoiding a deterioration in the status quo is the best to be hoped for, said Ahmad Aweidah, head of the Palestinian stock exchange, set up when hopes of peace were high in the 1990s. [n.b. – Aweidah is also co-owner of the Zamn cafe in Ramallah, which is expanding despite its relatively high prices and uncomfortable seating. Zamn was originally based on the Aroma chain of cafes in Israel] ‘Peace process? What peace process? That’s so nineties. After 18 years, don’t they feel silly?’ he [Aweidah] said. ‘There are only two scenarios. The optimistic one is more of the same. The pessimistic one is it’s going to get worse’ … ‘We are the audience in a theatre’, said Samir Hulileh, chief executive officer of Palestine Development and Investment Ltd (PADICO), a holding company set up at the start of the peace process with the aim of building a Palestinian economy. ‘We have memorised the play so many times, it is repeated in different forms, and sometimes with different faces, but it’s the same’, he said. ‘We know the final outcome’, he said. ‘We don’t feel hope coming out of it’.” This Reuters report on reax to the forthcoming summit can be read in full here.

Huleileh makes it sound like The Rocky Horror show, actually — of interest to a cult group who know all the lines, and will shout them out with the actors…

Ma’an News Agency wrote over the weekend that “Fatah has accused Hamas of stalling a potential [reconciliation] deal to avoid elections, which the Palestinian Authority postponed in January and June, citing unity before elections. The PA has enlisted a group of independent politicians to mediate between the two rival governments, while Hamas has called for direct dialogue with Fatah”… This can be viewed here.

Does Fatah (or Ma’an, for that matter) believe that Hamas will bear the brunt of the blame for stalling or scuttling a reconciliation deal? Or that it is Hamas which doesn’t want elections?

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said before the regular weekly meeting of his cabinet on Sunday that “we need a serious partner … If we have a serious partner, we can achieve an historic agreement”.

Was Netanyahu referring, here, to the Palestinian (who were not even mentioned by name) — or to the Americans?

Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz the same day that “Expectations for the renewed negotiations are negligible. The small number of people actually interested in the peace process think Netanyahu is bluffing”. Though Aluf Benn seems to think that this means that Netanyahu can negotiate without having his hands tied too tightly, Benn adds that “The Prime Minister is entering negotiations with two primary demands: Palestinian recognition of Israel as the ‘state of the Jewish people’; and the stationing of the Israeli Army in the Jordan Valley [n.b. where it is already in total control], along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state, as a buffer against the smuggling of rockets and heavy weapons. He also wants Jewish settlements in the Etzion Bloc to remain in Israel, as well as Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, and he is committed to the unity of Jerusalem. These principles are no different from what Barak and Olmert proposed to the Palestinians at Camp David and Annapolis, respectively”… etc.  This is published here.

And, in an article which discretely favors a one-state solution — as if the Palestinians really had the luxury of such a choice — John Whitbeck wrote that “Almost 17 years after the ‘Oslo’ Declaration of Principles, with its five-year deadline for reaching a permanent status agreement, was euphorically signed on the White House lawn, why should anyone take this new ‘deadline’ seriously or see any reason for hope in it? Throughout the long years of the perpetual ‘peace process’, deadlines have been consistently and predictably missed. Such failures have been facilitated by the practical reality that, for Israel, ‘failure’ has had no consequences other than a continuation of the status quo, which, for all Israeli governments, has been not only tolerable but preferable to any realistically realizable alternative. For Israel, ‘failure’ has always constituted ‘success’, permitting it to continue confiscating Palestinian land, expanding its West Bank colonies, building Jews-only bypass roads and generally making the occupation even more permanent and irreversible. In everyone’s interests, this must change. For there to be any chance of success in the new round of negotiations, failure must have clear and compelling consequences which Israelis would find unappealing – indeed, at least initially, nightmarish” [i.e. – a one-state solution]. This article is posted here , and I thank Sam Bahour for the link.

However, as a cynical friend said recently in Ramallah, “The Palestinians are like the man on death row, waiting for his execution, who tells the jailkeepers that he insists on filet of beef, and not jumbo shrimp, for his final meal — ‘don’t even think about bringing me the shrimp’,” he tells them, ” ‘and the beef should be rare, not well-done, and not even medium — it has to be really, really red’ “…

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