Sunday, May 31, 2009

Abbas uses US to undermine Netanyahu

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 31, 2009, by Haviv Rettig Gur [with my emphasis added - SL]:

...PA officials said [their] leadership is waiting for US pressure to bring down the Netanyahu government.

..."It will take a couple of years" for this American pressure to force Netanyahu from office, the Washington Post quoted one of Abbas's officials as saying, presumably bringing opposition head Tzipi Livni to power.

...According to the report, Abbas and his leadership believe the government would likely fall if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu surrendered to American demands for a total freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.

...Abbas added that he would not even assist Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, in trying to encourage Arab states to begin warming relations with Israel until Israel accepted these conditions. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognizes the two-state solution," Abbas was quoted as saying. "Until then, we can't talk to anyone."

However, the Washington Post went on, "Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze - if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while US pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. "'It will take a couple of years,' one official breezily predicted."

Abbas "rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession - such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees," the article continued. Abbas intends to remain passive, he told the paper.

"I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements… Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality... The people are living a normal life."

Abbas also told the Washington Post that former prime minister Ehud Olmert accepted the principle of a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees and offered to resettle thousands of Palestinians in Israel. He said Olmert proposed a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank, and showed him its contours on a map.

Abbas said he turned down Olmert's peace offer because "the gaps were too wide."

"What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position," wrote the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl, who conducted the interview along with a colleague, "is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments."

While the Bush administration placed the onus for change in the Middle East on the Palestinians, Diehl wrote, the Obama administration had shifted the focus to Israel.

The upshot is that "in the Obama administration, so far, it's easy being Palestinian," Diehl wrote.

Under George W. Bush, the Palestinians knew that "until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel," wrote Diehl.

But Obama, with his repeated demands for a settlement freeze, "has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud." ...
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