Friday, June 24, 2011

"Now What?"

Arlene Kushner

PM Netanyahu was doing great -- standing strong against Obama's demands.

But then on Sunday, at the Cabinet meeting he made statements that seemed to indicate a reversal -- or perhaps a shift -- in his position. Or perhaps not...

As reported by Haaretz, Netanyahu made his statement during the course of a report on demographic changes in Israel within the Green Line, and in Judea and Samaria, that was being delivered by the Jewish People Policy Institute.

The Institute had included in its presentation demographic data from Professor Sergio DellaPergola; his material suggests a "demographic time bomb," with trends indicating that we will, in the course of time, see a Palestinian Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. What Netanyahu said was this:

"It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens. I am interested that there be a solid Jewish majority inside the State of Israel. Inside its borders, as these will be defined."

According to Haaretz, Uzi Landau and Limor Livnat asked that demographic data from someone like Yoram Ettinger -- who says that there is no severe demographic threat -- also be presented, but the prime minister cut the discussion short.


Unsettling, for sure. And not a statement we needed right now. What is going on?

On the one hand, what we see is that the prime minister is continuing to be strong in other respects. He has maintained the position that we will negotiate with the PA/PLO only if there is no unity government with Hamas, and only if Abbas recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. The second point was reiterated most recently this week at the closing session of the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

Additionally, on at least a couple of different occasions, he has reportedly told foreign leaders that the PA is being treated like a spoiled child. By this he means that the PA is cut slack, while demands are made only on Israel (and more on this below).


But on the other hand, the specter of negotiations for a "two-state solution" continue to loom large, and he may be talking to this -- playing his game of showing how willing he is. Or warning his Cabinet with regard to what may be coming.


The Quartet, which will be meeting very soon in Brussels, is going to be under pressure by the EU to find a way to avert a PA bid for statehood in the UN. According to one "senior Israeli official" cited this week by the JPost, the EU wants to "give something" significant to the PA to entice them from that bid. That "something" is said to be adoption of Obama's formula of adopting the '67 lines as a base for negotiations.

At the very same time, there are no plans to demand that the PA give assurances with regard to Israeli security or that it acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. It's a one-way proposition, with Israel expected to do all of the giving.

This is hardly a new mindset, but it is what prompted Netanyahu's "spoiled child" comment to individual leaders.

You might want to see the JPost editorial on this subject:


To make matters more obscene, on Sunday, in the context of the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, who is host for the month, held a dinner on the Middle East.

EU policy chief Catherine Ashton was included, as were ministers from 11 European countries, as well as representatives from: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the Arab League, and the PA.

But not Israel. Although, without a doubt, Israel was a main subject of the conversation.

This would have been obvious on the face of it, but in a blog posting about the dinner, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt made this clear, as he spoke about "large parts of the Arab world" having "given up virtually all hope of progress" with the present Israel government.


So, were Netanyahu's words his response to this climate?

What must never be forgotten for a second is that neither the Quartet nor the EU makes policy for Israel. The Israeli government does.

If we don't agree to sit down at the table with Abbas if he hasn't recognized Israel as the Jewish state, then we don't sit down with him.

If we refuse to begin negotiations with the '67 lines as a basis for discussion, then negotiations won't begin there.

Standing strong is imperative.


Meanwhile, we are seeing additional signs indicating that Abbas may be backing off from that UN bid because he's seen the handwriting on the wall regarding the fact that this will not be a panacea for his political problems.

Khaled Abu Toameh wrote a major piece -- "Searching for a ladder" -- on this subject today:

"President Mahmoud Abbas is beginning to realize that he climbed a very high tree regarding the plan to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in September, and is now crying out for someone to provide him with a ladder to come down.

"This is how a senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah responded when asked this week where Abbas stood on the issue of the statehood bid."

Abbas is coming under increased pressure to abandon both the statehood initiative and plans for unity with Hamas. In Ramallah, says Abu Toameh, the feeling is that he will not be able to withstand that pressure and will ultimately reverse his plans.

"Abbas is now saying he would rather return to the negotiating table with Israel than proceed with the plan to seek statehood unilaterally. But to do so, he needs Israel to give him something so it won't appear as if he has once again surrendered to outside pressure.

"The PA president is in fact searching for a face-saving solution to the mess he got himself into by declaring day and night that nothing would stop him from going to the UN in September.

"He is counting on US President Barack Obama to give him the ladder that would enable him to climb down form the tree without being hurt...

"Abbas and his aides say that the Americans and Europeans have come up with a number of proposals that would help the PA president backtrack on the statehood initiative...

"'We have two basic demands,' the sources said, 'We want a commitment that the 1967 borders (sic) would serve as a basis for future negotiations and a temporary cessation of settlement construction. The ball is now in the Israeli court."


Is this picture clear? The PA was prepared to 1) abrogate commitments under Oslo by seeking statehood unilaterally, and 2) unify with an overtly terrorist group that espouses "resistance."

Then, if, under pressure from the international community, the PA backs off from these we're supposed to reward it. And the onus will be placed on Israel to "give" Abbas something so he's not embarrassed as he backs off from what were horrendous decisions.

Abbas, who has behaved exceedingly reprehensibly, will expect Obama to come down on Israel, thus delivering for him.


Before switching gears, I will add one other factor -- not new to my readers -- indicative of the fact that Abbas is indeed backing off:

Hamas yesterday made the charge that Fatah, having succumbed to US and EU pressure, is reneging on its reconciliation agreement. The response from a PA official, as cited in another article by Abu Toameh:

"Hamas is nothing but a tool in the hands of Iran. (This is true, but Abbas didn't care until now.) There can be no agreement with a movement that serves the agenda of a regime like Iran, which is a threat to Arab national security."

So.. bye bye unity agreement. At least for today.


I wrote recently about the analysis by Yonatan Halevi that indicated an eagerness on the part of Khaled Mashaal, Hamas politburo head, to solidify that unity government; his goal is Hamas control of the PLO -- recognized as the international representative of the "Palestinian people."

And so, in the face of backtracking by Abbas, Hamas officials have to be mighty furious right now. Said one such official:

"It seems that the man [Abbas] has no struggling background and had never resisted the occupation in his life. He has fallen in love with the enemy...Abbas's statement raise questions about his qualifications to lead the Palestinians."

Hmm... it may be that, while Abbas wants to be done with Hamas, Hamas is not done with him.


I am reminded here of the saying, "Man proposes, God disposes."

We think we know where we are headed, but sometimes the Almighty above laughs at us.

My hope -- and the hope of many others -- was that once and for all Oslo would be finished, and with it the farce of a "two-state solution." But that hope may have been premature. We'll see.

I had written about a window of opportunity that might be opening with a bid for unilateral statehood by the PA: a window that would have made movement towards sovereignty over Judea and Samaria more possible. But we now have to see how matters play out.

What I will emphasize here is even if that window does not open right now -- via a PA abrogation of Oslo -- it remains imperative that we continue to educate the world at large, and the Israeli populace in particular, regarding the futility of "two states" as a "solution, the rights of the Jewish people in the land, and the existence of a more viable and equitable solution. We must institute a process that will shift the paradigm of thinking over time.


Other issues will have to wait until after Shabbat. Here I end with a real "good news" piece:

Please see the article, "Did Moses miss the good stuff?"

This is an allusion to the old joke, that Moses turned in the wrong direction since he led us to a land without oil, while all around is oil. The message here is that there IS oil in Israel.

Word about this has come out before, but it made news again today because of a panel entitled "New Energy for a New Tomorrow" at the Israeli Presidential Conference. Participating in the panel was Dr. Harold Vinegar, of Israel Energy Initiatives, who presented possibilities for recovering vast quantities of oil within the shale rocks in Israel.

This is not going to happen tomorrow. It involves a new process -- in which rods are placed deep in the rock and slowly heating so that oil can be extracted -- that does not present the same ecological threat as early methods. It is still being tested, and then the process itself moves slowly. However, Vinegar estimates that in time it may be possible to extract an enormous 250 billion barrels of shale oil.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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