US Secretary of State John Kerry came away empty-handed from his latest meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Amman on Sunday, February 21,- which shouldn’t have surprised him as it was par for the course. DEBKAfile’s Middle Eastern sources report that Kerry was finally persuaded that Abbas would not give Israel an inch on any political or security-related matters. The Palestinian leader has never swerved from his conviction that it was the duty of the international community to force Israel to present the Palestinians with a state of their own – without direct negotiations.
To this end, Kerry found Abu Mazen clinging to the initiative put forward by French President Francois Hollande, for an international conference that will establish a Palestinian state, while letting the Palestinians off the hook of talks with Israel.
France in fact warned Israel that without progress towards a two-state solution of the conflict, Paris would go ahead and recognize a Palestinian state on its own.
The Palestinian leader is determined to campaign on behalf of the French initiative in the coming month, undeterred by the US Secretary’s repeated warning that Washington will not go along with it, even if France puts it before the UN Security Council.
But Kerry was most of all taken aback to find himself rebuffed by Abu Mazen when he asked him to make a speech or issue some statement calling on the Palestinians to halt their terrorist attacks against Israel now entering their fifth consecutive month. All his efforts to persuade the Palestinian leader to tamp down the violence were in vain.
A senior member of Kerry’s entourage told DEBKAfile’s sources: “Abbas obviously thinks that terrorism in its present form serves his policy, although he won’t admit as much in public.” The source described the US Secretary’s mood after this encounter as “disappointed and shocked.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that Abbas is treading a very fine line. While he finds a measure of violence useful for letting the Palestinians vent their resentments, he nonetheless instructs his security services to partially cooperate with Israel so that Palestinian violence does not get out of hand and make him their next target.
And before him is the constant sight of the consequences of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the rise of Hamas rule. This must be prevented from happening on the West Bank avoided at all costs.
Notwithstanding this reality, the age-old controversy dogging Israeli politics erupted again this week, when the IDF military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, was quoted (or misquoted) as commenting some weeks ago at a security cabinet session that diplomatic traction between Israel and the Palestinians might cool the current wave of terror,
This theory, disproved each time a new round of peace talks sparked a fresh outbreak of Palestinian terror in the last three decades, was strikingly refuted once again in the Kerry-Abbas meeting in Amman.
Recent leaks from Israel’s security cabinet, although often taken out of context, show that intelligence evaluations are too often wide of the mark – both on the Palestinian issue and the prospects of the Syrian conflict.
This may have something to do with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahus delay in appointing a new National Security Council Director to take over from Yossi Cohen who has been appointed Mossad Director.
Netanyahu, it appears, is not happy with the intelligence evaluations put on his table and may decide to dispense with yet another evaluator.
Also short on substance were the remarks made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Feb. 22 from the deck of the American destroyer, the USS Carney, which is anchored at the port of Haifa in the framework of the joint US-Israeli Juniper Cobra 2016 missile defense.
Yaalon said, “The United States and Russia, both of which are currently active in the Syrian civil war, recognize Israel’s freedom to act in defense of its interests.”
While the two powers may indeed recognize this freedom in principle, Israel will be certain to avoid any action that makes it liable to being accused of damaging the chances of a ceasefire going into effect in Syria on Feb. 27. Both the US and Russia will also make sure that no outside power, whether Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Israel, intervenes militarily in the Syrian conflict whatever their security interests may be.