Could 'Framework' Offer Elusive Breakthrough as Peace Talks Sputter?

Ami Ayalon Sees Kerry Plan as Game-Changer

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By J.J. Goldberg

Published March 20, 2014, issue of March 28, 2014.
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Nobody, it’s fair to say, ever went broke betting against the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. You could put even money on a sudden meltdown, a theatrical explosion or a quiet fade-out. Just don’t bet on success. Nobody wins.

Right now the heavy betting is on how soon the Kerry initiative will collapse and who’ll be blamed. The secretary of state started off last summer aiming for a permanent peace agreement by this April, then downsized to a “framework” for continued negotiations. Now even the framework is iffy. The left says it’s too pro-Israel. The right says it’s too pro-Palestinian. Kerry himself told a congressional committee March 12 that he’d never seen mistrust anywhere of the sort he’s seeing between Israelis and Palestinians.

A poll released the previous day by the liberal Israel Democracy Institute showed how broad the mistrust is: Two-thirds of Israeli Jews (and 54% of Israeli Arabs) don’t trust Kerry.

Does anybody see any good emerging from this mess?

Actually, yes. Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon does. He was in New York March 11 touting a plan to turn Kerry’s lemon of a peace initiative into lemonade.

Ayalon admits it’s a mess. “The administration lost a lot of credibility with Israelis when Kerry came last year and said within nine months we’ll achieve what we didn’t achieve in 20 years. It was more than naïve.”

Today, with the Middle East sliding backwards into violence and instability, with “the increasing power of Muslim fundamentalism and the decreasing power of political leadership,” leaders don’t have the authority to take hard decisions.

“This is why Abu Mazen [a.k.a. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas] can’t give [Benjamin] Netanyahu what he offered [Ehud] Olmert five years ago and why Netanyahu can’t give Abu Mazen what Olmert offered.”


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