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Calls on Obama to put deal on the table

by Rhonda Spivak, Israel, August 8, 2011

 Israel -The New York Times (NYT) Sunday  editorial criticized all parties involved in Middle East peace negotiations, including the Obama administration, and warned of "damaging consequences" to the Palestinian UN membership bid.

"In little more than a month, the Palestinians are expected to ask the United Nations to recognize their state," the editorial said. "We have sympathy for their yearning and their frustration. For years, they have been promised a negotiated solution — President Obama called for a peace deal by September — and they are still empty-handed. But the consequences could be profoundly damaging for all involved."

The NYT emphasized that the US will exercise its veto right in the UN "which will further isolate both Israel and Washington."

"The Palestinians may instead ask the General Assembly to recognize them as a state or give them observer status as a state," the article said.

"Either would undoubtedly pass. But it would be in name only. After the initial exhilaration, Palestinians would be even more alienated, while extremists would try to exploit that disaffection."

The NYT claimed that the only way to avoid the looming disaster is in serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. "The two sides haven’t even been in the same room together since September 2010," it noted.

The Times editorial  then criticized Israel. "Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has used any excuse he can find to avoid negotiations. He has blustered and balked at President Obama’s prodding. Republican leaders in Washington — who seem mainly interested in embarrassing Mr. Obama — have encouraged his resistance."

Referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the paper said, "(He) seemed to give up on diplomacy when Mr. Obama could not deliver a promised settlement freeze. We see no sign that he has thought even one step beyond the UN vote."

On the same day the  New York Times editorial was being published  Ma'an News Agency in the West Bank reported that Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a political  prisoner exchange, which means that there will be Hamas convicts loose in the West Bank [this completely contradicts the whole reason why the U.S., EU and Canada supported the building of a PA security force, which was to clamp down on extremist militants, rather than set them loose.]

The NYT editorial  stressed that "to have any chance of inducing the Palestinians to drop their statehood bid — and finally move the peace process forward — the United States and its partners should put a map and a deal on the table, with a timeline for concluding negotiations and a formal UN statehood vote."

It remains to be seen whether Obama will put a map on the table, something that J-Street was essentially calling on him to do last  February during its convention in Washington that I attended.

If Obama did put a deal on the table, would it be the Clinton-Barak-Arafat deal of Camp David in 2000, the one that Yassir Arafat rejected at the time? Would the Palestinians and their Hamas partners accept it now?. 

If Obama did put a deal on the table, would Netanyahu's co-alition fall apart? Would there be new elections in Israel or would  Netanyahu form a coalition government with Kadima?   If there are new elections, there will be new socio-economic parties that arise--and no one can safely know what the results would be.

The NYT article concluded thus: "We see no sign that Washington or the Israelis are thinking beyond the incremental. The United States can veto a statehood resolution. But all sides will end up paying a high price. "

There are  in fact lots of  unknowns as to what will occur when masses of Palestinians take to the streets during the  UN vote [as I think is likely to be the case], assuming the Palestinians do not back down from going to the UN.

Will the Palestinians have peaceful deomonstrations/protests or celebrations or will some turn violent?

If Palestinians  demonstrate or dance in the streets of Ramallah, there will be no friction with the  IDF because the IDF isn't there.

But what if the Palestinians march to nearby Jewish settlements ? If so, the IDF will protect the settlers and one would expect violence to ensue. Shaul Mofaz, former chief of the IDF who is in Kadima made headlines here when he  criticized the IDF for not having plans ready  to evacuate  Jewish settlements if necessary in September. The media here has also reported that the IDF has purchased more equipment for dispursing riots. Although an Israeli intelligence report presented to the  Knesset recently, said it was likely that there would not be widespead violence, it nonetheless recommended to call up some of the Israeli reserves for September.

If Palestinians march towards Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem as they did on Nakba day, things could be violent especially if Palestinians try to cross over the checkpoint. Similarly if they attempt to storm borders, there will also be violence.

Will Syria and Lebanon again send Palestinian refugees to the  border to infiltrate Israel as they did during the Nakba day? Syria's domestic problems certainly haven't gotten better. 

What will Hamas allow to occur in  Gaza? Will there be missiles fired from Gaza or will things be quiet?

Even if Abbas calls for only peaceful demonstrations, will  Hamas supporters and all Palestinians in the West Bank listen to him ?

Will the  far left in Israel also take to the streets in Tel-aviv in support of the  newly declared Palestinian state-? I think so.  Will their numbers be small or will the Centre-Left join them in an attempt to force new elections in Israel ? This is possible.

If there are tens of thousands of people in the  West bank demonstrating, will any of the demonstrators turn anger on Fatah which many Palestinians consider corrupt? Will Palestinians, like other nearby Arab states have done in the spring, turn against their leaders?

And what of Palestinians in Jaffa, Haifa, Akko, East Jerusalem---will they get out on the streets demonstrating, celebrating or protesting in support of the Palestinain UN bid ? Will such demonstrations be peaceful or violent?

If Obama puts a deal on the table, will that deal require the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which they have consistently refused to do? (since it was part of Obama's May 19 speech of principles to solve the conflict)

In short, there could be chaos here--on a number of levels, whether or not Obama puts a deal on the table.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.