Who Is Palestinians' Partner for Peace?

Mahmoud Abbas Reaches Out But No One Reaches Back

Whose Partner? Mahmoud Abbas has been doing everything he can to reach out to Israel’s leaders. Who can honestly claim that Benjamin Netanyahu, or anyone else in power, is responding in kind?
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Whose Partner? Mahmoud Abbas has been doing everything he can to reach out to Israel’s leaders. Who can honestly claim that Benjamin Netanyahu, or anyone else in power, is responding in kind?

By Leonard Fein

Published November 17, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
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Who can say that Israel has no partner for peace?

That, sadly, is not a rhetorical question. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Abbas’s interview with these words: “I can say that if Abu Mazen [Abbas’s alternate name] is really serious and intends to advance peace, as far as I am concerned, we can sit together immediately. Jerusalem and Ramallah are only seven minutes apart; I am ready to start negotiations today. I will take this opportunity to again call on President Abbas to return to the negotiating table without preconditions….”

No preconditions. This from a man who has declared repeatedly that Jerusalem, all of it, will eternally remain the undivided capital of Israel, a man who encourages its steady Judaization; the same man who has declared that Ariel will always be part of Israel, a man who comes to the table with a host of his own preconditions.

But didn’t this same man announce at Bar-Ilan University just three years ago that he favors a two-state solution to the conflict? He did. And then he proceeded to act — and still does — as if he’d never uttered those words, as if Israel will be content over the long term to sit and slowly whittle away the geographic conditions upon which a viable Palestinian state depends.

Who can honestly say that the Palestinians have a partner for peace?

Meretz was the only left-wing Zionist party to welcome Abbas’s comments, as did President Shimon Peres. They know, it seems, that Netanyahu’s calls for renewal of negotiations are meaningless, intended to preserve the fig leaf of Israel’s reasonableness rather than to articulate a serious policy. On November 6 Haaretz published an open letter from Israeli novelist David Grossman urging Netanyahu to move beyond vague assurances and begin talks with Abbas now.

The world is awash with problems and crises: the economy, climate change, Afghanistan, Pakistan and bloodletting in Syria, and the list goes depressingly on. It is doubtful that the United States will have the stomach for yet another try at brokering an Israel/Palestine peace, in light of the rest of its urgent agenda, the ongoing upheavals in the Arab world and of Netanyahu’s intransigence.

So the partners. And the parties themselves? Don’t hold your breath; see, instead, to your breaking heart.

Contact Leonard Fein at feedback@forward.com


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