The Jordan Times (Opinion)
January 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a slippery sort. One day he goes to Cairo and impresses officials there with his willingness to talk about all issues, issues he would apparently never have talked about before. This causes the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, to go out and say that Israel is ready for serious negotiations, which obviously include the future of Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is illegally occupied territory.

But once back in Israel and surrounded by his right-wing government chums, Netanyahu presents a very different image, one that is not willing to “compromise” on Jerusalem, which will remain the “eternal, undivided capital” of the “Jewish state” (too much is wrong with that sentence, hence the quotation marks).

Yet at the same time, Israeli government officials have the nerve, the chutzpah, as they might say, to go out and tell the media that the obstacle to resuming negotiations with the Palestinians is the Palestinian demand that Israel stop building its illegal settlements in occupied territory, including, obviously, in occupied East Jerusalem.

Funny that. It seems a logical demand. If we are to negotiate over a cake, surely we have to stop eating it before we begin talking about who gets what.

Still, at least Netanyahu’s clear position should be a signal to those few (in Washington) who still seem inclined to accept Israel’s point of view.

The signal, as Cairo conveyed to Washington yesterday, is that the “atmosphere is not conducive” to serious negotiations. And the reason is that Israel is not willing to seriously entertain the “compromises” - as pro-Israel propagandists like to term those conditions Israel must meet to abide by international law - that it has to agree to for there to be peace.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right. Almost everyone knows what a two-state solution should be. But why isn’t Washington telling Israel?

Indeed, for as long as the US is reluctant to tell Israel exactly what a two-state solution has to look like (it can simply point to the relevant clauses of international legality) the two parties will be no nearer to peace.

Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO chairman, is absolutely right to reject any pressure to begin negotiating with as slippery a sort as the current prime minister of Israel.


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