Some interesting takes on the talks

Here’s a selective post-talks round-up:

Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf wrote that “the US papers seem to give the talks a greater importance than the Israeli media [that changed on Friday, he noted further down in his post]. Bizarre, to say the least …  It’s easy to tell when things get serious. The settlers make a good litmus test for the intentions of the Israeli leadership. They have good ties with the Israeli administration and army. When the settlers sense danger, they let it show. And while they went after Sharon and Rabin with everything they got, they are awfully quiet now. There wasn’t even a single major protest against Netanyahu, The National Religious Party is still in the government, and the right flank of the Likud has never been more silent. The Israeli tabloids – like all tabloids – reflect their society’s mood: This is clearly not a country on the verge of its most important decision in decades … [T]he diplomatic process is not a sports competition, and pep talks can’t help when the gap between the parties is too big. The Palestinian leadership has lost most of its credibility and legitimacy with its own people, and the bleeding gets worse with every picture of Abu Mazen shaking hands with Netanyahu. Hamas has just given us the first taste of what leaving it out of the process means. Even so, the positions of PM Fayad and President Abbas are incredibly far from those of Barak and Netanyahu. The Israeli leadership – and to be honest, the Israeli public as well – cannot give the Palestinians the minimum they can settle with. Under these circumstances, even if an agreement is reached, it won’t mean a thing. As I’ve written before, the current stage in the conflict is not just about peace. It’s about ending the occupation and getting the Palestinians their rights. Some people in the American administration understood that, but for their own reasons, they decided to pursue the failed policies of the past two decades”.  This analysis is posted here.

The BBC published, after the talks, an almost hilarious “behind-the-scenes” account from two of their journalists embedded with the delegations — “The BBC’s Gidi Kleiman was with the Israelis, while Jeannie Assad was with the Palestinians:

“MOOD BEFORE THE JOURNEY [on board the private chartered plane carrying the Palestinian delegation]
“They had wanted to go to the talks with a guarantee that Israel would not renew its settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Come to Washington and then we will take it from there, the Americans had apparently told President Abbas. The president agreed to an interview, coming over with Turkish coffee in hand. He told us he was oing to the talks in good faith and because he believed in peace through negotiations. But at the same time he told me it would be difficult for him to continue the talks if the settlements continued. He would pull out, he said, if Israel did not extend the moratorium.

“It was to be the first time he had spoken to an Israeli leader in 18 months [n.b., it was actually 20 months — since the end of December 2008]. His people back home were not happy about it. The settlement issue was a tough one. He was to tell the Israelis and the Americans that continuing settlements was a ‘deal-breaker’, one of his aides told me … there were more changes to the speech. By the time Mr Abbas read it out in the White House, it had been changed 39 times.

“After the one-on-one with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mr Abbas said the meeting was positive. He told his aides he had told him about all his concerns and explained to him everything that was discussed with the previous Israeli government.
Not only had Mr Netanyahu listened carefully, but he took down notes, Mr Abbas added. The Palestinian president said he had told the Israeli prime minister that the settlements must stop …
“Has Prime Minister Netanyahu undergone a fundamental change or was it just change of tactics? Were these talks for real or just a way to avoid pressure from the US and the international community to move forward in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians? Did he change? His speeches, his statements, gestures, all suggested a change of heart. In a speech at the White House, he said that he came to find a historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, echoing the words of such peace-makers as Israel’s slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He said to the Americans, to the Palestinians, to the travelling press:  ‘I am serious about peace, try me’.”  This “behind-the-scenes” report is published here.  [A rather different take on Netanyahu’s position is noted in a blog on our sister site, here….]

Haaretz then reported another comic post-talk report, that picked up an article in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat which stated that the “Palestinian attitude in peace talks shifting by 180 degrees”.   Really?

Continue reading Some interesting takes on the talks

Analysis: the difficulty of deviating from the Palestinian consensus

A Haaretz opinion article written by two Israeli academics argues that “Israel will enter negotiations with profound gaps between its goals for the diplomatic process and those of the Obama administration. Rather than a final-status solution, the Israelis prefer to manage the conflict and perpetuate the existing territorial reality. At the basis of this position lies a fear either of the Palestinian partner’s inability to guarantee Israel’s security interests in any agreement, or of the social price Israel will be forced to pay as a result of a massive evacuation of settlers. The shaky status of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in the Palestinian arena, and the opposition that Hamas will show against any concession on the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees and a massive evacuation of settlements beyond the Green Line, add to Israeli concerns about the Palestinian leadership’s ability to concede on these issues”…

Continue reading Analysis: the difficulty of deviating from the Palestinian consensus

Now Rice says talks will resume, but no time given

Our speculation is, apparently, scooped. Or, is this just spin?

News reports just in say that Rice announced at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with the Israeli Foreign Minister: ” ‘I’ve been informed by the parties that they intend to resume the negotiations and that they are in contact with one another as to how to bring this about’, Rice said told a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni … Rice gave no timeframe for a resumption of the talks but said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had not conditioned the talks on reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. Rice said the Palestinian president would like to see an end to violence, but added: ‘This is not a condition’.”

If true, this is a major cave-in from the PA side.

This breaking news update is published here.

However, taking a second look at this, there is not too much really different — the parties intend to resume negotiations. But there is no time given. The one new element is Rice saying that she has been informed that the parties “are in contact with one another” to discuss how to bring this about.

LATEST UPDATE: The AP is reporting from Ramallah that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said he would resume peace talks with Israel, backing off a threat to boycott negotiations until Israel reaches a truce with Hamas militants in Gaza. ‘The peace process is a strategic choice and we have the intention of resuming the peace process’, he said in a statement. He did not say when talks would restart, but visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Jerusalem that a US general overseeing implementation of ‘the road map’ peace plan would hold his first joint meeting with Israelis and Palestinians next week. [n.b., that would be Lt. Gen Fraser] Abbas suspended talks earlier this week to protest Israel’s military crackdown in Gaza. Earlier Wednesday, he said he would not resume talks until a truce was reached”. This AP report is published in the JPOST here .

This would have to be called, at the very least, an extremely gracious concession on the part of Abbas, if it is not a major cave-in. It may cost him dearly.

VERY LATEST UPDATE: AP has reported this evening that “Abbas backed down after Rice called him in alarm just before an afternoon press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, where Rice planned to announce an agreement reached that morning to revive talks”.  This AP revelation is  here .

Israel, meanwhile, has reportedly also allowed another 70 trucks (“about”) loaded with humanitarian supplies to deliver their contents to Gaza today (Wednesday). The Jerusalem Post says that the trucks were “laden with food, medicine and humanitarian equipment”, and it added that, on top of that, “25 Gazans made the trip into Israel in order to receive medical attention”. This is major movement, after many weeks of blockade.

LATE UPDATE: The IDF spokeman has announced the contents of “about” 69 truckloads of goods that were allowed into Gaza today, as follows:
63 trucks through Sufa Crossing containing:
– Fruit
– Sugar
– Humus (chickpeas)
– Flour
– Coffee
– Baby Formula
– Oxygen Masks
6 trucks through Kerem Shalom crossing containing:
– Oil
– Flour
– Beans
– Tomato sauce