Time to acknowledge the truth: Abbas doesn’t aspire to reach any peace deal with Israel

If Israel’s P.M. Netanyahu offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an interim deal, the truth would be revealed — Abbas doesn’t have the will nor the capability to sign any sort of peace agreement with Israel.

By Dan Margalit


The government is operating as if it was a carousel or a roller coaster. What was promised has not been fulfilled and what was decided has not been guaranteed.

President Mahmoud Abbas – Photo: Reuters

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett will not leave the government, mainly because they are replaceable. There are bench players waiting to take their places on the court.

The fight between Lapid and Bennett is severely disrupting public life. When it was formed, the government vowed to equalize the burden of military service, grant tax benefits to same-sex parents and reform the Chief Rabbinate.

But as of now, the government has faltered on all of those tasks.

Everything starts and ends with the peace negotiations with the Palestinians. I agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, who believe that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have the will or the capability to sign a peace agreement with Israel.

If this is how Netanyahu sees it, then it was his desire to avoid a diplomatic siege on Israel by the West that spurred him to take the risk of becoming involved in a daring diplomatic poker game with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu would be wise to reach a preliminary agreement with the U.S. on the conditions of a peace deal and display flexibility and willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians. Only then will the truth be revealed — that Abbas does not aspire to reach any sort of peace deal with Israel. The present circumstances suit Abbas well. He is the victim, he is admired, and Israel’s status in the West is becoming increasingly problematic.

Tearing the mask off of the Palestinian Authority’s face would be possible only if Netanyahu were to offer Abbas an interim deal that has the support of rightists within Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi. This would return stability to the government, but that would not be the main goal of such a move.

Yet if there is a pleasant surprise and Abbas agrees to the deal — a largely theoretical scenario — then a historic peace agreement would be worth a new election and coalition. Israel should give U.S. Secretary John Kerry an interim deal proposal that would serve as a litmus test for the Palestinian Authority’s intentions.

A revealing text message

Every year, billionaire Haim Saban invites a group of Americans and Israelis to a symposium that bears his name. The guests pledge to keep the contents of discussions at the event secret. This is perfectly fine. But as is written in Ecclesiastes, “A bird in the sky may carry your words.” Even across the seas, to Israel.

Last Friday night, former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin addressed the group at the hotel in Washington and attacked former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying that Olmert had harmed Israel’s security interests with statements he had made, regarding preparations Israel has undertaken in light of the Iranian nuclear threat. The audience could almost see sparks in Yadlin’s eyes as he said that it would have been inconceivable for Israel to not develop a credible military option in light of such a serious threat.

One may recall that several weeks ago Yadlin permitted Olmert to speak at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, which he is the director of. I criticized Yadlin for letting Olmert speak. No academic institution in the world would give such a platform to someone standing trial for bribery. I offered Yadlin a chance to respond to my criticism and he declined. But in a closed setting at the Saban Forum, he expressed astonishment at Olmert’s use of the INSS stage for political purposes. An embarrassed and aggrieved Olmert responded to Yadlin, “You came here to diss me.” Yadlin’s attack on Olmert impressed the Saban Forum attendees, even though Yadlin’s personal criticism of the former prime minister softened by the end of the intense meeting.

This week, I asked Yadlin for details of his criticism of Olmert at the Saban Forum and I received a surprising and mysterious text message in response. He refused to talk about the criticism, but added, “I, as you know, use moderate language and do not need harsh words. Margalit, what a small man, it’s good that we didn’t answer him. To this message respond that the information you received was from a [private? D.M.] conversation. My professional opinions are known to you, including the importance of having a credible military option.”

Where is the confusion? Yadlin sent my question to him to a spin doctor who wrote an answer for him. Yadlin then accidentally sent me the message his advisor wrote, without erasing the personal comments against me. I responded, “I’m shocked. With whom did you consult?”

We then spoke by phone. According to Yadlin, he consulted with a media professional, who likely is his regular advisor, as the advisor used the word “we” — him and Yadlin — regarding the question I sent to Yadlin two weeks earlier on Olmert’s speech, to which they did not respond. In the words of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote,” “Tell me what company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are.”

Yadlin was wrong two weeks ago to let Olmert address the INSS. But justice was on his side when he criticized Olmert at the Saban Forum. The words of God.

Find the woman

On Friday, Israel’s Left is holding a conference that will be attended by Isaac Herzog (Labor), Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al), former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, Dov Khenin (Hadash), most Labor, Meretz and Hatnuah MKs, and two Haaretz writers.

Former Labor and Independence MK Einat Wilf was also invited and she rushed back from an Israel advocacy trip in the U.S. But Wilf was then informed by conference organizer Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, that although she was invited, she would not be allowed to address the conference.

Wilf was an excellent MK — she fought against economic concentration — and she holds a Ph.D. in political science from Cambridge. Wilf supports the two-state solution, but she also opposes leftists groups that encourage the isolation of Israel in the world. If the Left aids boycotters of Israel, Wilf believes, it will never return to power. Wilf is a member of NGO Monitor, a nongovernmental organization that was founded by Professor Gerald Steinberg. Well-known Israel defenders Professor Alan Dershowitz and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel are members of NGO Monitor’s International Advisory Board.

Just like Peace Now tracks settlement construction, NGO Monitor checks whether human rights groups around the world stray from their proper roles in order to encourage the isolation of Israel. The activities of both Oppenheimer and Wilf are acceptable in any democracy.

If the Left had invited Dershowitz, who was hosted this week at the INSS by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, or Wiesel to speak, it certainly would not have dared to cancel their appearances. But Wilf? The conference organizers, who praise democracy with their words, thought that silencing Wilf would stir on a small ripple.

Hopefully Herzog reads the newspaper early and sees what has transpired here. If I was him, I would tell the Left, which cannot hear any word of defense for Israel, that if Wilf is boycotted, I’m going to stay in my neighborhood cafe, rather than attend the conference, for the freedom of expression and for the sake of the Labor party.


View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=13987