PM Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet in Washington in September 2010 – Photo: AFP
According to the official, a regular participant in policy-making, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to make significant progress toward a peace deal, but “everybody knows” that Abbas will not allow this.
Since Obama visited Israel in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to find a way to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry’s efforts have led nowhere because neither side believes talks would continue after an opening summit.
At this point, the peace process is stalled because of Palestinian demands for a complete settlement freeze. In public statements that he made in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Obama rejected preconditions for the renewal of peace talks. Yet the Palestinians continue to insist on a number of preconditions, including, among others, the release of more than 100 terrorists imprisoned in Israel for attacks they committed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.
Abbas is also demanding that Netanyahu present a map of the final borders of a Palestinian state. The Prime Minister’s Office strongly rejects this demand, saying borders should be the last core issue discussed. Israeli officials believe Abbas is demanding a border map to spark internal controversy in Israel over settlements that would not remain inside the country.
The senior diplomatic official said that the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama was “very good.” The official said Obama “opened a new page and during his recent trip to Israel proved that he came as a friend.”
Some Israeli officials point to the upcoming 2014 U.S. Congressional elections as a reason for Obama’s embrace of Israel. According to this line of thought, Obama wants to soften Congress so that it will not thwart his plans.
But the more dominant assessment among Israeli officials is that the Obama administration changed its tune toward Israel due to the consequences of the Arab Spring.
“Netanyahu is prepared to reach a true peace agreement, but everyone knows there is no partner for that at this time,” the senior diplomatic official said. He said that while Israel was ready to make concessions and gestures, Abbas is torpedoing the process. The official pointed at Abbas’ attempt to form a unity government with Hamas, a move that would preclude peace negotiations between Israel and Abbas.
The official said he believed that Abbas’ policy was to “stay in place.”
“Abbas saw that after the disengagement [Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005], despite the relative strength he had there with 35,000 fighters against the 4,000 of Hamas, Hamas expelled him,” the official said. “In light of the events taking place in Arab countries in the Middle East, he does not want the same thing to happen in Judea and Samaria.”
Meanwhile, a Palestinian official in Ramallah denied reports over the weekend that talks had been held to arrange an Obama-led summit between Netanyahu and Abbas. The Palestinian official said Abbas was busy establishing a new Palestinian government in the wake of Salam Fayyad’s resignation. According to the official, Abbas wants to set up a unity government with Hamas on the basis of the Doha Agreement that Abbas signed with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal last year.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=8891