The Israeli Left is on a collision course with the Obama administration. It is reportedly trying to undermine negotiations between the Netanyahu government and Fatah. The Obama administration is earnestly seeking to initiate them.
According to an unnamed eyewitness interviewed by Israel Radio, during a July 8 meeting between Kadima Council Chairman and former vice premier Haim Ramon, and Fatah chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Ramon urged Erekat to tell Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to reject the Netanyahu government’s offer for direct negotiations towards a peace deal.
Ramon allegedly claimed to speak for President Shimon Peres and warned Erekat that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not give the Palestinians what they demand. In light of this, Ramon urged Fatah to reject Netanyahu’s offers to meet.
The implication was clear. If the Palestinians wait out this government, a Kadima-led leftist government will happily give them what they want: Israel on a platter.
Ramon has rejected these allegations. He has also accused the eyewitness of being an agent of the Prime Minister’s Office.
If Ramon is telling the truth, the PMO would have been justified in keeping an eye on him. According to reports from late March, Ramon played a central role in instigating the crisis between Israel and the US that erupted during US Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Israel. Ahead of the visit, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson gave an interview to Israel Radio in which he said that the people of Israel would soon see how bad Israel’s relations with the US had become under Netanyahu.
During that visit, the administration seized on a routine meeting of Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee as a means of provoking the largest crisis in US-Israel relations in some twenty years. After Biden’s visit, Makor Rishon reported that Ramon met with one of Obama’s senior Middle East advisors before Biden arrived.
If Ramon did in fact tell Erekat to refuse Netanyahu’s offers to negotiate, it means that the Israeli Left and the Obama administration are working against one another. After all, the administration has made clear that it fervently wishes for Abbas to agree to direct talks with Netanyahu and begin those talks ahead of the midterm Congressional elections in November.
But while they disagree on when these negotiations should take place, the Israeli Left and the Obama administration agree on what it will take to get them started and keep them going. Like Ramon, Obama seeks to woo Abbas to his side by promising to deliver up Israel. According to media reports, Obama has pledged that if Abbas agrees to negotiate, the administration will coerce Netanyahu into submitting to the Palestinians’ demands on substantive issues. These include borders, Palestinian militarization, ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria and large portions of Jerusalem, and other issues.
Yet despite these and other massive inducements, Abbas still refuses to negotiate. And so the Americans have released their heavy guns.
No, Obama is not threatening to end US training of the Palestinian army. That $550 million training will continue despite Israel’s position that a Palestinian state must be demilitarized and its concern that the US trained force will turn its guns on Israel.
Members of the Palestinian security forces and their Fatah affiliates have been responsible for most of the lethal attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria in recent years.
But the Obama administration’s commitment to its Palestinian army is so massive that the US’s General Accounting Office just published a report criticizing Israel for not being sufficiently supportive of the US trained military force.
No, Obama is not threatening to end US support for Palestinian statehood or stop defining that objective as the US’s central goal in the Middle East. Indeed, Obama’s decision to upgrade the PLO mission in Washington signals that he is willing to consider accepting a Palestinian state formed outside the framework of a peace deal with Israel. That is, he is willing to consider supporting a Palestinian state that will be at war with Israel.
So what are the big guns that Obama has just turned on Abbas in his bid to cajole him into talking to Netanyahu? According to the Daily Telegraph, Obama is threatening not to increase the pressure he is currently exerting on Israel to extend its ban on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria if Abbas refuses to negotiate. That is, Obama’s “stick” against the Palestinians revolves around the intensity of pressure he will place on Israel for the Palestinians’ benefit.
While it is ironic that Ramon’s meeting with Erekat places Kadima in conflict with the Obama administration it supports, but arguably more remarkable than what divides the two is what unites them. In both cases, the Israeli Left and the Obama administration are offering to serve up Israel to the Palestinians for negotiations that have no chance whatsoever of leading to a peace deal.
They are both willing to serve up Israel not for peace, but for political theater.
It is hard to think of anything Abbas hasn’t already done to make clear that he doesn’t want to negotiate. He has refused to negotiate. He has demanded impossible preconditions.
He has asked Fatah and the Arab League to refuse to negotiate. While Abbas rejects the legitimacy of the Jewish state, his refusal to sit down with Netanyahu is not primarily a question of ideology.
It is important to remember that Abbas doesn’t actually represent anyone anymore.
Abbas has no legal authority to represent the Palestinians. His term of office ended in January 2009. The only reason he continues to be referred to as the president of the Palestinian Authority is because the US insisted that he pretend that he still represents someone.
But Abbas’s status as a has-been is the least of his problems. Even if Abbas’s term had not ended a year and eight months ago, he still wouldn’t have the power to make a deal with Israel. Hamas, not Abbas’ Fatah holds the cards in Palestinian society. This much was made clear in the first instance when Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006. By most non-Abbas controlled accounts, despite the billions of dollars Fatah has received in US and EU aid since then, if elections were held today, Hamas would likely win again.
And then there are the military realities.
Today, it is not the US-trained and financed Palestinian army that keeps Abbas’ expired government in power in Judea and Samaria.
It is the IDF. If the IDF were to withdraw, Hamas would take over in those areas just as it took over Gaza three years ago.
And if Abbas signed a peace accord with Israel tomorrow, he would have no capacity to implement it. He would be dead before he had a chance to declare statehood. And he knows it.
When Hamas reinstated its missile war against Israel last week, the media contended that Hamas is seeking to derail talks between Abbas and Netanyahu. Whether this is true or not, it misses the point.
The point is that Hamas can derail talks any time it wishes because Hamas is the real power in Palestinian society — not Abbas.
And because the US has coerced Netanyahu into agreeing to hold talks with a Palestinian who has no power to negotiate, and because the Palestinians with actual power are controlled by Iran and wholly committed to Israel’s destruction, it is clear that Obama’s most earnestly held goal and the Israeli Left’s greatest desire is to engage in political theater with Abbas at Israel’s expense.
Unfortunately, while the goal is theater, its consequences are anything but entertaining. Indeed, they are deadly.
This longstanding penchant for having Israel negotiated with the Palestinians despite the latter’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state has brought about a situation in which Israel faces the prospect of a two-state solution that involves the creation of two Palestinian states. The first — the Palestinian state in Gaza, has existed for five years.
It is run by Hamas and is controlled by Iran and Syria. The second — the Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is run by Fatah. Protected by the IDF, it wages war against Hamas in the streets. And legitimized by the Israeli Left and the US, Fatah wages diplomatic war against Israel internationally. And when the blinds are pulled, Fatah forces join with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their common goal of killing Israelis.
Because this political theater requires everyone in a position of power to ignore the fact that the Palestinians have both no interest and no ability to make peace with Israel, the Palestinians are consistently supported. And since it requires Israel to make endless concessions to the Palestinians to keep the drama going, support for Israel has consistently eroded.
Reality on the Palestinian side is not the only thing the likes of Ramon and Obama ignore in the interest of their love of theater.
They also ignore that the Israeli people have had enough of their play acting.
In a poll of Israeli Jews carried out for Channel One last week, by a margin of more than two to one, respondents said the withdrawal from Gaza was a mistake. By a margin of three to one they said they would not support similar withdrawals in the future. By a margin of nearly four to one they said their support for settlers had increased since the expulsions from Gaza. And by a margin of two to one, they said that the withdrawal harmed Israel’s deterrence.
Ramon is the architect of the unilateral withdrawal strategy. He cooked it up back in 1994 when the Palestinian introduction of the suicide bomber to the daily lives of Israelis soured the public on the peace process with the PLO. And now, with no chance that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader will sign or implement a deal with Israel, it is clear that the only way to progress in the political theater Obama and Ramon so fervently desire is for Israel to give more unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians.
The obvious remedy for all of this is for the Israeli Left and the US to recognize what it is that they are doing. Outside the world of theater, neither the Israeli Left nor the US have an interest in building yet another terror state in Judea and Samaria in addition to the one in Gaza. Neither has an interest in weakening Israel to the point where it cannot defend itself and therefore invites aggression from its neighbors.
If the Israel Left and the Obama administration truly want peace, they would be making some demands on the Palestinians. At a minimum they would demand that the Palestinians accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state and reform their anti-Semitic institutions.
But then they wouldn’t have their political theater. And that is something that cannot live without.