Do Palestinian Long Faces Signal Breakthrough or Stalemate?

Saeb Erekat Looks Very Unhappy as Tzipi Livni Beams

getty images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published August 01, 2013, issue of August 09, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Leaked documents known as the Palestine Papers show that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his top aides were discussing how to reply to Olmert’s offer, but events inter vened: Olmert resigned; his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, failed to form a replacement coalition; new elections were called; and Israel’s Gaza incursion, Operation Cast Lead, froze all Israeli-Arab contacts that didn’t involve bullets.

In March 2009, following Israel’s elections, Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded Olmert. Claiming Olmert had given away too much, Netanyahu offered to sit and negotiate “without preconditions,” by which he meant starting over from zero. That’s where things got stuck.

Fast-forward to March 2013. John Kerry, energetic new secretary of state, charged quixotically into the deadlock. Palestinians still insisted they’d only return to the table if the talks picked up where they left off — that is, with a 1967 baseline. Netanyahu still refused. Somehow, in the face of worldwide skepticism and mockery, Kerry got them back to the table. Nobody knows exactly what he said to them, or heard from them, to make that happen. The question is, who blinked?

The smart money said the sides had agreed to come to Washington only to negotiate a new basis for negotiating, and that given their incompatible positions, that was doomed to failure. But on July 30, Kerry announced negotiations toward a permanent agreement.

Some insiders say Kerry gave Abbas a written American guarantee that the talks would be based on the 1967 lines, though Netanyahu couldn’t say so publicly. In some versions, Kerry also promised them the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem for their capital. In those versions, Netanyahu received a parallel guarantee that Israel would be recognized as a Jewish state and that the Palestinians would declare an end to the conflict and all further claims. But it’s all speculation.

Some Israelis who know Netanyahu well say he’ll never accept anything like the 1967 lines and is merely playing for time. If that’s true, then either he lied to Kerry, in which case he’s risking a major crisis in U.S.-Israel relations next year, or Kerry didn’t give the Palestinians a 1967 guarantee, in which case their agreement to resume talks is inexplicable. But this, too, is all speculation.

And now comes the press conference. What did we learn? First, Kerry said publicly that the Arab League is behind what he’s doing. Given the complexity of Arab politics, that must mean that they’re heading toward something that can be passed off as the 1967 lines. Any other Israeli minister might have frowned at that, but Livni could smile: She accepted those borders in 2008. Expect some fireworks back home in Jerusalem in the coming weeks. Second, Kerry explicitly mentioned an “end of conflict” and “end of claims,” which means there’s an understanding of some sort on Palestinian refugees.

And Erekat’s long face? That’s a sign that the Palestinians gave up something big. But if it’s not the 1967 borders or refugees, then what? One possibility: Jerusalem. In semi-secret talks back in 1995, Abbas himself agreed to put the Palestinian capital in the village of Abu Dis, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, and call that their Jerusalem. Could the Arab League buy into that — with, say, a land bridge to the Temple Mount? Could Bibi?

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.