September 5, 2010

EDITOR: Shenanigans in Cairo – a little bird has whispered in my ear…

As aging President Mubarak, recently taken with installing his son (known in Egypt as the ‘Pharaoh-in-waiting’) Gamal as his political heir, has flown to Washington on the orders of the boss, and taken part in the rerun of the old comedy show, “Springtime of Peacetalks in Washington”, revived after many years, then it may be less than surprising that the rather ascerbic Al Ahram Weekly was pulled out of the ether and its website is missing this week’s edition – no doubt due to the many articles which attacked or criticised the ‘talks about talks’, as well as the complicit partners in this charade, in the service of Israel and the US President. We mustn’t upset the boss and paymaster, after all!

So it is with regret that I am writing this, unable to bring you the current thinking in Egypt on this topic, as the press throttling goes on, like so many times before!

Anti-Israel economic boycotts are gaining speed: Haaretz

The sums involved are not large, but their international significance is huge. Boycotts by governments gives a boost to boycotts by non-government bodies around the world.
By Nehemia Shtrasler
The entire week was marked by boycotts. It began with a few dozen theater people boycotting the new culture center in Ariel, and continued with a group of authors and artists publishing a statement of support on behalf of those theater people. Then a group of 150 lecturers from various universities announced they would not teach at Ariel College or take part in any cultural events in the territories. Naturally, all that spurred a flurry of responses, including threats of counter-sanctions.

That was all at the local level. There’s another boycott, an international one, that’s gaining momentum – an economic boycott. Last week the Chilean parliament decided to adopt the boycott of Israeli products made in the settlements, at the behest of the Palestinian Authority, which imposed a boycott on such products several months ago.

In September 2009, Norway’s finance minister announced that a major government pension fund was selling its shares in Elbit Systems because of that company’s role in building the separation fence. In March, a major Swedish investment fund said it would eschew Elbit Systems shares on the same grounds. Last month the Norwegian pension fund announced that it was selling its holdings in Africa Israel and in its subsidiary Danya Cebus because of their involvement in constructing settlements in the occupied territories.

The sums involved are not large, but their international significance is huge. Boycotts by governments gives a boost to boycotts by non-government bodies around the world.

New world
Human-rights organizations in Europe are essentially running campaigns to boycott Israeli products. They are demonstrating at supermarkets, brandishing signs against Israeli goods. Worker organizations, with millions of members, send circulars to their people calling on them to forgo Israeli products.

Boycotting Israeli products in Ramallah Photo by: A

I talked with farmers who say there are retail chains in Europe no longer prepared to buy Israeli products. The same is true for a chain in Washington.

The world is changing before our eyes. Five years ago the anti-Israel movement may have been marginal. Now it is growing into an economic problem.

Until now boycott organizers had been on the far left. They have a new ally: Islamic organizations that have strengthened greatly throughout Europe in the past two decades. The upshot is a red and green alliance with a significant power base. The red side has a name for championing human rights, while the green side has money. Their union is what led to the success of the Turkish flotilla.

They note that boycott is an especially effective weapon against Israel because Israel is a small country, dependent on exports and imports. They also point to the success of the economic boycott against the apartheid regime of South Africa.

An anti-Israel protestor at Dublin Airport, Ireland, June, 7, 2010. Photo by: A

The anti-Israel tide rose right after Operation Cast Lead, as the world watched Israel pound Gaza with bombs on live television. No public-relations machine in the world could explain the deaths of hundreds of children, the destruction of neighborhoods and the grinding poverty afflicting a people under curfew for years. They weren’t even allowed to bring in screws to build school desks. Then came the flotilla, complete with prominent peace activists, which ended in nine deaths, adding fuel to the fire.

But underlying the anger against Israel lies disappointment. Since the establishment of the state, and before, we demanded special terms of the world. We played on their feelings of guilt, for standing idle while six million Jews were murdered.

David Ben-Gurion called us a light unto the nations and we stood tall and said, we, little David, would stand strong and righteous against the great evil Goliath.

The world appreciated that message and even, according to the foreign press, enabled us to develop the atom bomb in order to prevent a second Holocaust.

But then came the occupation, which turned us into the evil Goliath, the cruel oppressor, a darkness on the nations. And now we are paying the price of presenting ourselves as righteous and causing disappointment: boycott.

EDITOR: BDS good news!

The BDS campaign in Scotland is really taking off! Scotland was one of those places where the campaign hit the ground running; that may well be related to the English UK collaboration with Zionist policies and collusion over war-mongering in the Middle East, but it may well be closely related to the hardly-won struggle for devolution as well, and the higher value placed in Scotland on human and political rights, as well as political solidarity with other nations under the heel of colonial occupation and control.

Small shops Israel boycott goes nation-wide in Scotland: Acottish PSC

Anti-Israel boycott by Muslim shops goes Scotland-wide
by Jasper Hamill, Sunday Herald, 5 Sept 2010

Khalid Bashir, owner of the Red Sea Food Store in Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, is already boycotting Israeli goods and has agreed to display a poster. He said: “People ask about it all the time, but I am able to tell them I have been boycotting Israel for years. It should be easier now that I can display this poster.”

In Dundee, protesters targeted shops in the city centre. In Kirkcaldy, the three largest Muslim-owned shops all agreed to take part in the boycott. Shops in Glasgow’s West End are taking part; in Aberdeen, campaigners are preparing to talk to shops in the coming days.

A nationwide boycott of Israeli goods is being launched across Scotland this weekend as activists target Muslim-owned shops in an attempt to stop them selling produce from the Jewish state.

The boycott, which started in the south side of Glasgow last weekend, was deemed so successful that campaigners decided to expand it. Campaigners from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are now targeting shops run by Muslims in the rest of Glasgow and in Fife, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

In Glasgow, the protesters asked shop owners to take Israeli goods off their shelves and warned they would “name and shame” any store that did not do so. The SPSC says every shop it approached on the south side of the city backed the boycott.

However, prominent figures in the Jewish community warn that the “divisive” tactics of campaigners risked driving a wedge between communities instead of fostering dialogue.

Mick Napier, chairman of the SPSC, oversaw a “clean sweep” of all Muslim-owned shops near the Nicholson Street mosque in Edinburgh on Friday. About 40 protesters went door to door, asking store owners to support the campaign.

“All the shops we visited backed the boycott and are now displaying posters to that effect,” he said. “The support we received from customers and passers-by was overwhelming.”

He added: “It’s been 100% successful. We often met with a response immediately, with people saying they would not dream of stocking Israeli goods. The pressure we bring to bear is moral. We use the threat of publicity. There is no threat of strong-arming.

“The reality is that Israel makes it impossible for Palestinian farmers to export almost anything. Palestinians were kicked off their land to make way for the illegal settlements, but the good news is that the boycott is kicking back. It’s great to see small shops in Scotland standing up for human rights.”

Napier also added that every shop visited in Dundee backed the boycott. Shopkeepers backing the boycott have put up a poster in their stores saying: “This shop supports the Palestinians. No Israeli produce sold here.”

Khalid Bashir, owner of the Red Sea Food Store in Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, is already boycotting Israeli goods and has agreed to display a poster. He said: “People ask about it all the time, but I am able to tell them I have been boycotting Israel for years. It should be easier now that I can display this poster.”

In Dundee, protesters targeted shops in the city centre. In Kirkcaldy, the three largest Muslim-owned shops all agreed to take part in the boycott. Shops in Glasgow’s West End are taking part; in Aberdeen, campaigners are preparing to talk to shops in the coming days.

Today, members of all faiths will meet to break the Ramadan fast at the Woodfarm Educational Trust in East Renfrewshire.

Dianna Wolfson, a prominent member of Glasgow’s Jewish community and a former convener of the Interfaith Council, which promotes dialogue between religions, will be attending. She warned that boycotts could derail the relations between communities.

She said: “There are people on both sides who would like to see peaceful settlements. This boycotting is not helpful. More needs to be done to explore how we can have peace with each other, rather than emphasising the warring aspect and divisive aspect of it.”

She added: “If people of different faiths were getting to know each other, they would be more likely to listen and hear the other side of the argument … to emphasis what is good on both sides, and come together.”

Wolfson said she would not consider boycotting goods from a country “that didn’t like Israel. It’s just not my thinking and I find it hurtful.”

Original article at the Sunday Herald, 5 Sept 2010


Scottish PSC adds:

Boycott is a peaceful, democratic method to make our feelings known at a time when the Government ande Labour opposition are complicit in Israeli crimes and support the charade of the ‘peace process’ at the same time Gaza is under siege, the illegal apartheid Wall remains in place.

The use of boycott to secure Palestinian human rights is the most effective way for British citizens to oppose the British Government’s political, diplomatic, economic and military support of Israel.

Dianna Woolfson of SCoJeC (Scottish Council of Jewish Communities) has a brazen cheek to suggest that peaceful boycott will damage community relations in Scotland when SCoJeC works – in vain – to implicate all Scottish Jews in Israel’s most revolting crimes.  The Jewish Chronicle reported recently that “Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president, Edward Isaacs led a four person delegation” to oppose “a motion passed by the council condemning the Israeli action against the flotilla to Gaza, in which nine Turkish activists died.”

SPSC has made clear on earlier occasions that interfaith discussions are irrelevant to the struggle for Palestinian freedom and those that compromise on human rights are tainted.

There is no such thing for decent people as collective guilt; each of us is responsible for our own actions.  Jews are no more responsible as a group for Israeli crimes than British citizens as a whole are responsible for the violent invasions and mass killings of Iraqis and Afghans by the British Army (the current as well as the earlier ones).
Equally, we all have a duty to speak out against the crimes of those – the British and Israeli governments – who claim our support for those crimes.

We note the retreat by SCoJeC from its knee-jerk previous failed attempts to smear Scottish PSC as ‘anti-Semitic’ but we condemn this organisation’s claims that Scottish Jews as a whole have an interest in supporting Israel’s mounting criminality.

In a faint echo of the deceit underpinning the so-called “peace process”, Dianna Woolfson claims that “More needs to be done to explore how we can have peace with each other”.  But we don’t need to explore anything; he problem is that SCoJeC claims on the one hand to be a representative Jewish community organisation while, on the other hand, it supports Israeli crimes such as the Mavi Marmara massacre.
Stop supporting theft of land, colonisation, murder and kidnapping of Palestinians who resist and embrace human rights equal to your own for those same Palestinians. Then there can be peace in that land brutalised by the Zionism of Liebermann and Netanyahu.
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, 5 September 2010

Clinton warns of ‘last chance’ for Mid-East peace talks: BBC

Hillary Clinton said Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas “can actually do this”
The US secretary of state has said the current round of Mid-East peace talks may be “the last chance for a very long time” to resolve the conflict.

In a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian media, Hillary Clinton said failure would embolden “the forces of destruction” on both sides.

Time was “not on the side” of Israeli and Palestinian hopes, she added.

Mrs Clinton spoke after Israeli and Palestinian leaders began their first direct peace talks in nearly two years.

Continue reading the main story
Israel and the Palestinians

Mrs Clinton acknowledged deep scepticism about the talks on both sides but said she was “absolutely convinced” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could succeed.

“It’s clear to me that the forces of growth and positive energy are in a conflict with the forces of destruction and negativity,” she said.

Mrs Clinton’s remarks came a day after the US Middle East peace envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, described the initial talks as “constructive”.

President Barack Obama, who opened the negotiations on Wednesday with bilateral meetings with Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu and a dinner for them and the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, has said the goal is a permanent settlement that ends the Israeli occupation of territory captured in 1967, and an independent, democratic Palestinian state existing peacefully beside Israel.

Michael Warschawski of the Alternative Information Centre firmly rebutts Avnery’s bid to limit the the BDS campaign: AIC

Blue and White: Where Uri Avnery has it Wrong
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Once again Uri Avnery is using his blog to criticize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Under the title “Red and Green,” Avnery comments on the long and interesting program recently broadcast on Israeli Channel 10 on the growing international isolation of Israel.

Avnery, the veteran journalist and activist, repeats his main arguments against “boycott Israel” campaign and the need to focus only on the boycott of settlers and settlement products. I have already reacted to a similar criticism by Avnery , but the well-deserved authority of Uri Avnery within the international solidarity movement requires a debate of what I consider to be his (very few indeed) mistaken views.

“Indeed there is no need for a world-wide [BDS] organization [the reportage] says, because all over the place there is a spontaneous surge of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli feeling. Following the “Cast Lead” operation and the flotilla affair, this process has gathered momentum,” summarizes Avnery.

After this summary, Uri’s blog focuses on a criticism of the campaign of boycotting Israel. His main argument is that the campaign doesn’t distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). For Avnery, while the OPT should be totally freed from Israeli control and domination, the territories west of the “Green Line” are “naturally” Israeli, just as Manchester is Great Britain and Hanover is Germany. There should be no challenge to this reality and, as Uri said once, he will be the first to defend Israel from any such challenge. For Avnery, the colonial nature of the State of Israel is obsolete within 1948.

Confronted with the colonial behavior and continuous dynamics of the state of Israel, more and more people are questioning Avnery’s approach, having difficulties to believe that the colonial behavior of all Israeli governments since 1967 is only a long series of mistakes due to severe blindness. Unlike my friend Uri, I don’t think that our problem is the world-wide “red and green” alliance”, but definitely the “blue and white” nature of Israel and its structural colonialism.

Towards the end of his blog Uri Avnery writes: “all this becomes impossible if there is a call for a boycott of all Israelis [my emphasis, MW)”. This is a mistake, but not an accidental one: the BDS campaign has never been oriented towards individuals, but towards products and institutions. The mistake, however, reflects the basic confusion of Avnery (and others) between the State, its deeds and its population. For Avnery, the state and population are more or less the same; the State is the collective organization of the citizen’s community and attacking the state (and even more so, denying its legitimacy) is synonymous with attacking its population and denying its right to exist as a collective.

In reality, however, the state is an accumulation of its deeds and institutions. State and civil society (its organized population) are two different entities, often antagonist to each other. Israel is a colonial state in its modus operandi, institutions and history, the same way South Africa was an apartheid state and the US, before the civil rights movement, a segregationist one.

Uri Avnery rightly points that the BDS campaign is targeting the colonial/apartheid state of Israel, not only the settlements and their products. BDS is calling for a triple revolution: ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, ensuring full individual and collective equality in the pre-1967 Israel,  and realizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Only the fulfillment of these three set of demands can make Israel a civilized state, acceptable in the community of democratic nations; until then, Israel (the real state of Israel, not an ahistorical and abstract concept) will remain a pariah state for all who are coherent in the defence of basic human rights and democracy and should be boycotted, the way apartheid South Africa, Fascist Spain or Greece of the military dictatorship have been boycotted.

As for the Israeli population that both Avnery and I would like to see on the frontline of the struggle for a just peace in this area, modern history has taught us that only the efficiency of the anti-colonial struggle and the growing price – in blood, money, international isolation and internal degeneration – to be paid for ongoing colonialism will ultimately make the change. Until then, we will remain a tiny minority of visionaries, adding our important voices – important, because they are coming from within the belly of the beast – to the growing international demand for justice for the Palestinian people.

Contrary to Uri Avnery’s claim, the solidarity movement with Palestine should not “support the Israeli activists”, but the other way round: the Israeli activists should provide their support to the world-wide campaign aiming at isolating the Israeli apartheid State, for the sake of the rights of the Palestinian people as well as for the sake of a viable future for our grandchildren.

Foreign report: Israel has one of world’s largest ‘eavesdropping’ intel bases: Haaretz

The base, near Kibbutz Urim, is central to the activities of the main Israel Defense Forces signals intelligence unit, 8200, according to report in Le Monde Diplomatique.
By Yossi Melman
Israel has one of the largest signals intelligence (SIGINT) bases in the world in the western Negev, Le Monde Diplomatique reported. The base, near Kibbutz Urim, is central to the activities of the main Israel Defense Forces signals intelligence unit, 8200, the report says.

According to the report, the base has 30 antennas and satellite dishes of different sizes and types, capable of eavesdropping on telephone calls and accessing the e-mail of “governments, international organizations, foreign companies, political groups and individuals.”

One of the base’s main purposes is to listen to transmissions from ships passing in the Mediterranean, the report says. The base is also the center of intelligence activity that “taps underwater communication cables, mostly in the Mediterranean, connecting Israel with Europe.”

The data collected at the Negev site is relayed for processing to a 8200 base near Herzliya, the paper says. Other reports say 8200’s base is near the Mossad headquarters, which receives the intelligence along with IDF units, the paper says.

The report quotes a former soldier in 8200 who said her job was to intercept telephone calls and e-mails in English and French.

“It was very interesting work, which centered on locating and identifying the ‘gems’ out of routine communications,” she said.

The report says that the base’s antennas can be identified if you go to the right websites. The antennas there are lined up in rows, it says.

The author of the article, Nick Hager, is a New Zealand investigative reporter specializing in intelligence and technology related stories involving signals intelligence. In 1996 he wrote a book on the role of New Zealand in international intelligence gathering, and discussed cooperation between New Zealand, the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada.

Le Monde Diplomatique repeats assessments in Israeli and foreign media about 8200’s contribution to Israel’s intelligence capabilities.

The unit has several bases, and is described as being the main body for signals intelligence collection in Israel, according to the report and other foreign media. Besides SIGINT, which involves communications, it also deals in ELINT, collecting signals from various electronic sources, including radar.

There are also 8200 units specializing in code breaking.

The unit’s great, known successes include the interception of a telephone call between Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and King Hussein of Jordan during the first day of the Six-Day War, and the interception of the telephone call between Yasser Arafat and the terrorist group that hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 1985.

Hager compares the Urim base’s capabilities to those of the U.S. National Security Agency, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters and a similar organization in France.

“However, there is one difference,” he says at the end of the report. While those units were uncovered long ago, “the unit at Urim remained unknown until this report.”

Middle East peace talks: Cynicism and mistrust stalk make-or-break negotiations in America: The Observer

The Barack Obama-backed summit is a long way from the bloody realities of the West Bank

Barack Obama, right, with Binyamin Netanyahu, centre, and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington last week. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP
The Israeli taxi driver shook his head and pointed to his kippah when asked to journey across town to an east Jerusalem neighbourhood on the day of the Washington talks: “I am a Jew. They will kill me. They are all Hamas.”

Behind this vignette lies a view held by many Israelis that the Palestinians do not want peace, that the threat of violence is ever-present and Israel must not make further concessions in these talks which are, in any case, doomed to failure like so many before them.

In Ramallah, it’s not so different, but there the talk is of settlements. Many Palestinians believe that the Israelis are using the negotiations as a cover for continuing to encroach on their land, to create facts on the ground that make a viable Palestinian state impossible.

Hundreds gathered in Manarah Square on the eve of the talks in a show of opposition to sitting down with the Israelis without a commitment by the latter to extend the current partial – and temporary – construction freeze. Many of those present were convinced the talks will fail and the consequences could be a return to armed resistance.

The mood on both sides is one of hostility, cynicism or indifference. Despite Barack Obama’s encouraging though sober words on Thursday about the “moment of opportunity”, it is hard to find people here ready to express any hopes or expectations of a successful outcome, even though opinion polls on both sides show a majority in favour of a two-state deal.

The backdrop to last week’s talks was not auspicious. Hamas gunmen shot dead four Israeli settlers, later saying 13 militant groups had joined forces to launch a wave of attacks which could include suicide bombings. In response, settlers’ groups declared the construction freeze to be over and that building would resume in around 80 locations in the West Bank. The arrest of scores of Hamas supporters across the West Bank by Palestinian security forces led to accusations that President Mahmoud Abbas was more interested in collaboration with the occupation than resistance.

The mood in Washington was cautiously upbeat, but the real work lies ahead and the settlement issue could well strangle the talks at birth. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, has categorically said that the Palestinian team will walk out unless the construction freeze is both extended indefinitely and applied to the currently exempt east Jerusalem. They want an explicit agreement, he said, not a tacit understanding.

Binyamin Netanyahu, mindful of his coalition’s pro-settlement right wing, is unlikely to offer this. The current freeze expires in three weeks, at which point the Palestinians’ robustness will be tested. Despite the agreement of direct talks without preconditions, Netanyahu has also publicly stated his terms, foremost of which is that the Palestinians recognise the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. Behind this lies the Palestinian demand that refugees have the right to return to homes they were forced out of or fled in 1948 and 1967. Although a compromise on the refugee issue is inevitable in any agreement, for the Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state at the start of negotiations means conceding a prime goal at the kick-off.

The broader question, to which there is no definitive answer, is whether Netanyahu is really serious about trying to come to a deal with his Palestinian counterparts. The view that he has come to the table only under intense pressure from the Americans and that his strategy is to spin out talks for as long as possible while continuing with the “Judaisation” of the West Bank and east Jerusalem is persuasive.

But there is a counterview: that the rightwinger, who has opposed and obstructed peace moves so often, has decided that a deal should be his historic legacy. The Americans seem to buy this. Obama has hinted that Netanyahu has given him private assurances of his commitment. Netanyahu has said he did not embark on a second stint as prime minister for pleasure, adding that there was not much pleasure to be found in the job in any case. He cannot seriously contemplate the alternatives to a two-state deal: a return to sustained violence; a continuation of the occupation and moving further towards a quasi-apartheid regime; a single state between the Jordan river and the sea for both Palestinians and Israelis that would spell the end of the Jewish state. He is ready, he insists.

Most Palestinians – and quite a few Israelis – view the notion that the Netanyahu leopard has changed its spots with derision and scepticism. But if there is any substance to this narrative, the weakness and the division of the Palestinian people is likely to be part of the equation.

Having already conceded 78% of pre-1948 Palestine, it is hard to see how the Palestinian leadership could give up more territory beyond agreeing land swaps for the big settlement blocs around Jerusalem (even that is unacceptable to many). But if Netanyahu shows willingness to strike a deal, there will be enormous pressure for the Palestinians to make concessions. If they walk out at any point, the Israeli narrative – once again – will be that there is “no partner for peace” and that the Palestinians have balked at an agreement.

Both sides have much to gain and lose. The US is adamant we will know within a year – if, of course, these talks last that long.

Talk to us, Bibi: Haaretz

Matadors Netanyahu, Abbas, Mubarak and Jordan’s Abdullah are preparing for another round over the corpse of the peace process.

By Zvi Bar’el

The bull dies in the end, no? He always dies. So what’s the fun in a bullfight? You don’t understand. It’s the style. The style. You have to know how to kill the bull. It’s an art. I no longer remember which Spaniard explained this truth to me, but I was reminded of it when I saw the handsome table where the matadors Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas sat, next to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, and the host, U.S. President Barack Obama. They were preparing for another round over the corpse of the peace process.

Netanyahu spoke well when he told Abbas: You are my partner for peace. Indeed, there are always two competitors, Israeli and Palestinian. For the next 12 months, if the process doesn’t die first, each will once again have to demonstrate his style. But in contrast to the bullfight, the art here is how to avoid responsibility for the death.

From left, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah yesterday in Washington. Photo by: AFP

The ground rules are clear. On the Israeli side you must not agree to a withdrawal, Jerusalem must not be divided, no returning of refugees, and don’t relinquish water resources or the Jordan valley. On the Palestinian side there is no giving up on a single inch of land but only minor land swaps, the refugee issue can be discussed, East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, and no settlement will remain in Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu began well. He declared in the measured tone of a master of rhetoric that he is ready for a historic compromise and that genuine peace will require painful concessions by both sides. What, for example? Continuing the construction freeze in the settlements? Dismantling unauthorized outposts? Adopting the map that former prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed to Abbas? Stationing a multinational force in the Jordan Valley?

What prevented Netanyahu from offering these things to Abbas during the indirect talks? Does he have a mysterious rabbit in his hat that he can sell Abbas without anyone noticing? In three weeks he will have to publicly confront his adversaries regarding construction in the settlements. No bluffing will do here. Bulldozers can’t be hidden in drawers. So it can be safely asserted that Netanyahu has no new wares to peddle to the Palestinians, and Abbas knows it.

What is needed here is a decision by the leaders, not negotiating teams, Netanyahu said, explaining his mission. If so, why is it necessary to have a referendum on the agreement, if and when it is achieved? Does Netanyahu fear that he is acting outside the mandate given him by the public, contrary to his party’s platform? Or maybe he’s sure the public will approve what his coalition partners will reject? But this is the same public that elected the rightist majority that formed the governing coalition. It’s the same public that Netanyahu has done nothing to convince that it would be best to withdraw, strike a peace agreement and separate from the territories.

The next stage is even more dangerous, because it’s too easy to con the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and present them with the trap of interim arrangements, a flexible timetable or a framework agreement that contains no practical details. These are minefields that have already exploded, from the Mitchell Report, to the Tenet Plan, to the road map, to Annapolis.

At most, these are escape hatches for each side. They are not much more than the declaration of two states for two peoples. Anyone who proposes them is dooming the process to failure from the start. It’s worth remembering how we waited with baited breath to hear the two-state formula uttered by Netanyahu, and after he said the magic words it turned out that the words were meaningless without a practical, political decision that can be translated into a complete agreement.

Upon his return from Washington, Netanyahu has to prepare for his next meeting with Abbas. But even more, he has to prepare for his dialogue with the public. He has to sell the form of peace and not the peace process. He can’t again offer the public the arrangement he obtained from Abbas, but rather the asset he will get at the end of the process. The Israelis, as well as the Palestinians, deserve to finally know what their country’s borders are, and to rid themselves of the stigma of occupation. He doesn’t have to whisper this in Abbas’ ear but to announce it publicly in Israel, in Hebrew.

Without this honest conversation with the Israeli public, Bibi will remain the matador, who with elegance and style drives the sword into the process, blames the Palestinians and declares that he won.

Abbas: No talks without building freeze: YNet

Palestinian president says he made it clear to Netanyahu that he would quit peace negotiations with Israel unless Jewish state extended curb on settlement construction. Earlier, prime minister says building freeze ‘a major obstacle’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he had warned Israel’s prime minister that he would quit peace talks unless the Jewish state extended a curb on settlement construction.

Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched negotiations at a summit in Washington last week.

A 10-month freeze on settlement housing ends September 26, and Netanyahu is under pressure from hardline allies to resume construction.

Netanyahu has not said what he will do. He told his cabinet on Sunday that creative solutions are needed to make the talks succeed.

However, Abbas told PLO activists in Libya late Saturday that “if the freeze period is not extended by the end of the month, there will be no negotiations.” Abbas said he made that clear to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu told his ministers on Sunday, “There is a feeling of maturity in the Arab world to reach peace.” He added that while some important countries had yet to stand by the peace process, he was under the impression that they were ready to reach peace despite the attacks.

But speaking at a Likud ministers’ meeting earlier, the prime minister stressed that problem of the settlement construction freeze in the direct negotiations with the Palestinians remained unchanged.

“There are many obstacles in the negotiations, and continuing the freeze is a big obstacle,” Netanyahu said.

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