Last summer it appeared that the quid pro quo would be normalization steps by Arab countries. Nothing came of it. Then Netanyahu and Obama counted on getting Abbas to accept the freeze when they were all in New York. Abbas didn’t bite.
Finally, Netanyahu decided to announce the freeze unilaterally which he did on Wednesday.
Surely he doesn’t want endless negotiations with no hope of progress. So one must conclude that its all about gaining time to deal with Iran.
Herb Keinon in his article Gaining Grace?
points out that Yossi Beilin knew about this 9 days ago,
Yossi Beilin - former MK, minister and one of the architects of the Oslo accords - was downright prophetic nine days ago when he accepted a French honor from visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Within a few days, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will declare a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction that would not include Jerusalem and would make exceptions for “normal life” in the settlements, Beilin said in his remarks, breaking the formula of banal acceptance speeches and getting the reporters in the audience to take up their pens.
The US, Beilin continued, would say that this was not everything they had asked and hoped for, but that it was enough to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And the Palestinians, Beilin prophesized, would reject the deal.
Beilin never revealed his sources, but within a week, his scenario played itself out.
How did he know? Everything unfolded as he foresaw with one exception.
Beilin, in short, went three for three in his predictions. But then he made a fourth prediction, that the Palestinian refusal to resume negotiations under these terms would create a “dangerous vacuum” that would trigger a chain of events that could very well lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.
Keinon maintains that
The prime objective of his settlement-start moratorium was to get the burden of being blamed for stalling the diplomatic process off of Israel’s back.
Netanyahu keeps repeating that the ball is now in Abbas’ court.
BUT WHAT is even more important from Netanyahu’s point of view is that the Americans - as evidenced by Mitchell’s statement - don’t see the step as hollow.
The US realizes that it hadn’t delivered on normalization or the end of incitement so it took what it could get from Netanyahu. It had no choice.
The moratorium was never meant to be a unilateral step, but ended up being one because no one moved on the other side. The expectation is that this will now be appreciated in Washington.
Netanyahu managed to convince
right-wing ministers like Bennie Begin, Moshe Ya’alon and Avigdor Lieberman to vote for the moratorium, something done because - one government source said - they had sat in the discussions over the last few months and seen what was initially demanded, what was agreed upon, and the whole array of pressures coming to bear on Netanyahu and the country.
Keinon believes that Netanyahu’s moves in accepting a Palestinian State, all be it with conditions, and announcing a freeze, although limited, are cut from the same cloth.
Netanyahu is now gambling that as a result of what he gave, the world will press the Palestinians to take the gestures and run with them. If the Palestinians don’t do so, Netanyahu seems to be assuming, it will be clear who will get the blame.
But considering recent history, that seems a somewhat risky assumption. Back in 2000, at Camp David and then at Taba, then-prime minister Ehud Barak justified his generous offer to the Palestinians by saying that if they accepted it, there would be peace, and if not, then the world would see who should be blamed for the failure and what came after.
I agree with Keinon when he writes
Wednesday’s move may have bought Netanyahu some temporary grace in Washington and the international community, but that grace - judging by other unilateral steps Israel has taken in the past - may prove fleeting. Netanyahu will only get temporary relief from pressure.
It would appear that the revelations in the Yediot Aronot’s Thursday article which Caroline Glick referred to in Bibi’s Bad Week,may not have any import.
Now we will have to wait to see if Beilin’s fourth prediction comes true.
Keinon makes no mention of any agreement on Iran.
But Alex Fishman does in Saving Abbas published Thursday. He also said its about avoiding Beilin’s fourth prediction.
The construction freeze in the settlements is yet another oxygen tank en route to reviving the “diplomatic horizon,” without which we shall see the Palestinian Authority increasingly disintegrating.
This is not about getting sentimental with Abbas or a sudden love story between the Israeli government and the diplomatic process. Even the tough “ideologists” within the cabinet realized Wednesday that there is no other choice, and that every effort must be made in order to preserve regional stability, even for a limited time. The Palestinian Authority must not collapse.
Abbas has turned into a key player; the stability of his regime maintains the calm and stability everyone needs until matters clear up on the Iranian front. Even those who object to making concessions to the Palestinians realize that we have to buy time. And buying time means maintaining the diplomatic process vis-à-vis the PA.
Hence, when officials around here debate the Gilad Shalit question, they simultaneously discuss the question of how to minimize the damage to be caused to Abbas and the PA in the wake of the mass release of prominent Hamas terrorists.
Even before the Shalit deal, Israeli officials estimated that the PA will not survive without a diplomatic horizon. Abbas would eventually give up and quit, and this will mark the beginning of disintegration that may lead to anarchy and to a third Intifada, which Fatah heads are already characterizing as a “popular struggle.”
A popular struggle, for the benefit of those who may have forgotten, may indeed start with stone-throwing, but will end with fire. And who needs fire on the eve of fateful decisions on Iran.
And Israel must prove she is serious about enforcing the freeze.
Barry Rubin has speculated that Clinton’s statement on the parameters for a peace deal was negotiated as part of the moratorium.
This raises a fascinating question: Was it coordinated with the Netanyahu government as part of the freeze deal? If so, the Netanyahu government has certainly proved itself to be flexible and peace-oriented. Certainly, there isn’t everything Israel wants in this statement yet it does encompass some important points taken out of the cabinet’s position on peace arrangements.
This makes eminent sense. Remember that Netanyahu once remarked that he wants to know where he is going while negotiating short term deals. Aslo his BESA speech setting out Israel’s conditions that must be present in a peace deal were part of these negotiations. Clinton’s statement gave him what he demanded except she was silent on Jerusalem.
Obama made it clear to the Israelis in Washington that he is willing to try this move in order to promote the revival of talks, but expects much more later on.
Evidently then there are mutual commitments.