The public relations team accompanying Abu Mazen (Abbas) in recent years celebrated an achievement this week. For two years, they have been waiting for the moment they could pull out the applications to international bodies, some U.N. affiliated and some not. This week, that moment arrived. They set up a widely broadcast event at which Abu Mazen signed the documents in front of cameras.
“Crisis,” “implosion of talks,” “everything is stuck,” the media outlets reported.
The crisis is fabricated. The negotiations will continue. The sides don’t have too many alternatives. They will continue to talk, and from time to time another crisis will pop up, after which they will return to the table. The truth is simple: Israel doesn’t want an agreement because the current government cannot undertake drastic measures. Therefore, the “sit and do nothing” policy is the best for it. Abu Mazen also doesn’t want a solution right now. The Palestinians have achieved in the past 20 years almost everything they wanted without giving a thing.
So who needs a deal? The Americans. They are under pressure. Obama and Kerry want international achievements so they can present them during midterm elections. If Obama’s party loses the midterms, he will become a lame duck with little power to do anything for his final two years in office.
This crisis is part of the process. There is more bickering and dialogue. The ship of negotiations has hit an iceberg, but it hasn’t sunk. It will continue to sail. This week, it was Israel that capitulated to the Americans. Washington was even ready to back down from its incomprehensible insistence not to release Jonathan Pollard, and for the first time, threw Israel the proverbial bone by offering to release him before Pesach. Which Israeli prime minister doesn’t want to go down in history as the one who freed Pollard?
The Americans know how to read the political map in Israel. They know Netanyahu does not have a majority to pass a huge prisoner release. That’s why they sweetened the pot with Pollard. In his current state of health, it’s not worth it for the Americans to keep him behind bars. And that’s where the idea was born: let Pollard go to give Netanyahu something to present to his opponents on the right who want to vote against releasing prisoners.
Israel understood that accepting the proposal would soothe Washington, and would prevent Abu Mazen from going to the U.N..
All Israel wanted in return for releasing all those prisoners was something small: to continue the talks — which aren’t going anywhere — until the end of 2014. Why then? Because then Obama will be a lame duck and John Kerry’s obsessive pressuring will ease.
After Israel agreed to all the American demands, Abu Mazen performed his PR stunt of applying to the U.N. Why did he do it? Because only after Kerry and Netanyahu reached an agreement did Abu Mazen realize that the Americans are very pressured, otherwise, they would never have put Pollard into the equation. And if that is where the Americans are now, he said to himself, it’s a good time to extort some more demands. Why only 400 prisoners? He first demanded 600 and then 1,000. And of those, he didn’t want auto thieves, he wanted arch terrorists. And to prove he was serious, he did his signing ceremony.
But sooner or later it will all move forward — until the next crisis. The real agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is unlikely to happen in our generation.