George S. Hishmeh
The Jordan Times
February 27, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu is not giving up, still hoping that he can entice Tzipi Livni and even Ehud Barak with key portfolios, should they accept to join his projected coalition government, or else, he must know fully well that his days as head of an Israeli government of extreme rightists will be numbered. Hence, the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations will remain at a standstill.

For a start, Barak, leader of the Labour Party, recognising his diminished status, appears unwilling to join a Netanyahu Cabinet now that his onetime all-powerful party, as a result of the recent election, has only 13 of the 120-member Knesset.

As far as Livni is concerned, she still seems to be wavering. This prompted leading liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz to call on her not to give up because “her insistence on a ‘different kind of politics’ obligate her to stick to her principles - first and foremost her call to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians”.

Of course, it is common knowledge that Netanyahu does not favour the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. But Livni’s public record in this regard is nowhere to be seen, though she had served as foreign minister. Her continued interest amounts to nothing more than her hunger for power.

Elliot Abrams, the leading neoconservative ideologue who served as senior director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs in the Bush administration, attests that he is “unaware of the achievement of any actual agreement” between the Palestinian Authority and Israel during their recent negotiations, which were energised after the Annapolis conference more than a year ago.

This, coming from Abrams, well known for his pro-Israeli views, in a lengthy article in the Weekly Standard, which in turn is considered the prime voice of Republican neoconservatives, is quite an indictment that diminishes Livni’s inflated position. In fact, he adds that “on the toughest issues, such as Jerusalem and refugees, there was, unsurprisingly, no meeting of minds”.

Going a step further, he is of the view that “it is unlikely that [Palestinian-Israeli] negotiators will do better this year [and] any possible deal would take years to implement” because he believes that “a final status agreement is not now a real-world goal”.

The alternative, Abrams suggests, is “a return to the realistic assessments and policies that marked Bush’s first term ... an intense concentration on building Palestinian institutions in the West Bank”, a position which is not unlike Netanyahu’s who has been talking about the need for an economic plan to upgrade the Palestinian communities. One cannot help but wonder who is the real author of these hackneyed views - Abrams or Netanyahu - which incidentally show no consideration for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza Strip. (Abrams admits making some three-dozen trips to Israel while serving in the white House).

In an apparent bid to silence the nay sayers, Netanyahu or Abrams, the US Middle East special envoy, George J. Mitchell, spoke in separate conference calls last week to American-Jewish and, for the first time, Arab-American organisations, which included The Palestine Centre and the Arab-American Institute, both in Washington, DC. He assured the American-Arab groups that the Obama administration will “actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as its neighbours Syria and Lebanon.

Then Mitchell, who left last weekend on an extended Middle East tour, dropped the bombshell.

“While economic growth is essential in conflict-ridden societies, it’s not enough,” he emphasised, “it has to be parallel with the political discussion.”

He continued: “We are not interested in process, we are interested in results. We want to get as soon as humanly possible, the objective which all of us seek, which is two states, a Palestinian state living alongside a Jewish state of Israel in peace and stability.”

Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, the target of a recent 22-day Israeli assault, he said the US “is actively supporting the effort to meet the humanitarian needs” there, adding: “We hope and encourage and support actively the effort to bring about some form of [Palestinian] unity government.”

“We will press forward as soon as possible to produce an agreement,” he continued, noting that he does not use the word process because it has been discredited in the eyes of many in the region as a mechanism for delay.

“We don’t favour delay. We favour proceeding as soon as possible.”

Israel still misses the point, whether it is Netanyahu or Livni at the helm.

“It is clear that the world has grown weary of Israel,” writes Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Its problems seem intractable, insoluble.”


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017