Chances are that the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians — announced with great fanfare last week — won’t lead to an agreement. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about.
There are at least three reasons why the talks are doomed to failure. One, the Palestinians don’t want a two-state solution; they want one state, under their exclusive sovereignty. That’s why over the years they’ve rejected what Israel considered generous offers: “custodianship” over Har Habayis, 94 percent of Yehudah and Shomron, an unprecedented nine-month building freeze. Surely if the Palestinians’ real goal was a two-state solution, Israel has offered enough to have enabled serious negotiations toward that end.
Second, even if PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has had an epiphany — a big if — he doesn’t represent the Palestinians. Those who live in Gaza, numbering around 1.6 million, tossed him out in a military coup, and his support in Yehudah and Shomron has been on a steady decline. At best, he’s little more than the mayor of Ramallah.
Third, there is a limit to what any Israeli prime minister can offer. There can be no return to the dangerous pre-1967 borders that give Israel a width of nine miles (14.4 km) and that place yet another Palestinian terror state in easy shooting range of Tel Aviv. There can be no return of millions of “refugees,” descendants of Arab families who left after the State was founded in 1948. There can be no Berlin Wall in Yerushalayim.
In short, the most that Netanyahu, or any Israeli prime minister, can offer is less than the least Abbas can accept.
And yet there is room for concern, serious concern, in terms of the strain that these talks could put on U.S.-Israel ties, the possibility of Palestinian violence erupting when the talks collapse (as happened following the Camp David talks in 2000), and, most significantly, questions about whether this government is capable of standing up for the security needs of its citizens in the face of international pressure.
It is naïve to think that Washington will be content with holding a festive ceremonial opening for the talks and then withdraw and allow the parties to work things out among themselves. The Americans have a vision of how a two-state solution will look, and they will play hardball with the parties to see that vision realized. Considering that they have chosen Martin Indyk to mediate the talks, Israel can be expected to be manhandled.
Indyk, a former two-time U.S. ambassador to Israel, is a board member of the New Israel Fund, which promotes calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and which fed the Goldstone Commission with the lies that formed the basis of its outrageous report on the IDF’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
In an interview with Hamodia a few years ago, Indyk made no secret of his view that the Israeli government had no interest in peace and that the only way to reach a deal was for Washington to use strong-arm tactics. He spoke with the contempt and condescension that those on the far-left have for the Israeli right and center.
That means that the Palestinians will get points for just showing up at the talks and Israel will get pounded. It also means that the Palestinians could score a victory even if all they succeed in doing is weakening U.S.-Israel ties at this crucial time, when Iran, Syria and Egypt are posing such serious threats.
Second, there is a very real danger that the talks will raise false hopes that will turn into disappointment and violence when they fail to deliver. Already, Abbas has been stating that “all options are open,” which leaves little to the imagination.
Third, Israel is going to be under enormous pressure in the coming months to make concessions. Already, Netanyahu has agreed to release murderers in exchange for nothing more than the pleasure of holding a meeting with Abbas. We’re supposed to be grateful that he “stood up” to the Americans and “only” agreed to release 85 of the 123 killers that none of his predecessors — including Ehud Olmert — would release.
Moreover, if Netanyahu can’t stand up to his main coalition partner, Yair Lapid, when it comes to banning chareidi parties from the government and passing legislation on drafting yeshivah students, what are the chances that he’ll stand up to the Americans on Yerushalayim, borders and Palestinian refugees?
We can only daven that the true Shomer Yisrael will protect the Jews of Eretz Yisrael from all the existential challenges confronting Israel today.