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When Netanyahu came to into office he continued the freeze that Olmert had started in August 2008 and came under withering pressure from Obama for more. Why Olmert agreed to it in the first place has never been discussed.

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.  November 28, 2009

Russian version
An introduction to MAOF
Haim Goldman

Dear Friends,

Would you believe that the undersigned has anything in common with

-- Professor Victor Davis Hanson (Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University),
-- Dr Charles Krauthammer, (Washington Post, Time, The Weekly Standard),
-- Caroline Glick (Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post),
-- Jonathan Tobin (Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent).

Amazingly, the editors of the MAOF website decided that the missives of the undersigned are worthy of translation and posting along the articles written by these distinguished authors.

The first letter was published without the consent of the undersigned.
However, after thorough examination of the laudable attitude of MAOF and of the excellent contents of the website, the undersigned had most graciously granted his permission for publication of his missives in both English and Russian.

“Analytical Group MAOF” [1] is an organisation founded about ten years ago by Russian-speaking Jewish intellectuals. The attitude of MAOF is definitely pro-Zionist -- unambiguously and unapologetically.

One of MAOF’s primary purposes is providing information and analysis about Middle-Eastern and world affairs as well as about Israel’s history, values and dilemmas. In addition to extensive publication activity in various media, MAOF also organises excursions and seminars. While the vast majority of the contents of the MAOF website is in Russian, texts originally written in English are provided in the original [2] as well as in Russian.

There are arguably about 250 millions of Russian-speakers worldwide and many of them do not read English. The indisputable motivation for the author’s permission was to grant those millions of disadvantaged people the grand benefit of reading the author’s ruminations. If the author is ever maliciously accused that his tacit motivation for authorising the publication was his craving to be listed along with the above-mentioned distinguished writers, his plea will definitely be “nolo contendere”.

The editors of MAOF expressed their gratitude by granting the undersigned a privilege that no other author got – the opportunity to review and correct the Russian translation before publication. The original letters of the undersigned are at [3] and their Russian version is at [4]. At of today, only two letters are posted but several other letters are pending translation.

You are kindly ENCOURAGED TO RECOMMEND the MAOF website to your friends and colleagues worldwide, particularly those who speak Russian. Those who do not enjoy the benefit of proficiency in the exquisite Russian language can find many thought-provoking and inspiring articles about Middle-Eastern and world affairs in the English section [2].


Haim Goldman


[2] section.php3? sid=37&num=25
[3] authorg.php3? id=2107&type=a
[4] authorg.php3? id=2166&type=a