Monday, December 24, 2007

Putting the Pressure on the Wrong Side Again

The following is from Haaretz. Once again, pressure is being put on Israel rather than on the party that needs to be pressured.

As usual, this is counterproductive. In fourteen years, the Palestinian Arabs have not budged from the maximalist demands, yet Israel keeps getting pressured to make even more concessions while the Arabs are let off the hook.

Since the main stumbling bloc remains, as it always has, the Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel and the refusal to make any compromises, this pressure on Israel only encourages that rejectionism and puts off any real progress towards peace.

There are also some comments interspersed with the text of the article.

Israel fears clash with U.S. over peace talks' impasse

By Barak Ravid

A senior adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel may come into conflict with the United States over increased pressure by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to advance talks with the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, the Israeli and PA negotiating teams, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia, respectively, are to meet Sunday ahead of Tuesday's meeting between Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The U.S. might want to up the pressure on Israel to fulfill its obligations in the first stage of the road map, the adviser said in private conversations, particularly removing illegal outposts and freezing construction in the territories.

[How about some pressure on the Palestinian Arabs to fulfill their obligations, especially since the obligations of the Palestinian Arabs essentially amount only to stopping some of their violations of previous agreements, while the obligations put on Israel in terms of restricting the rights of its citizens are unfair.]

"Their demands from Israel will only increase and it is not certain that we can meet them under the circumstances," he added.

The adviser said that in Vice Premier Haim Ramon's talks with American officials, he had gone "too far in promising them things to please them."

Another senior government official involved in the talks also warned of expected crises with the Palestinians and the Americans.

"Israel has created a series of far-reaching expectations in the international arena," this official said, referring to the implementation of the first part of the road map, "but this is not going to happen."

"There is no political capability either to evacuate settlements or freeze construction in the settlements," the second official added.

According to this official, the problem will be even greater when negotiations begin on the core issues. "There are detailed files that include Israel's position on the day negotiations came to a halt in 2001," he said. "What will happen when they open the Jerusalem file, for example? They'll find that Israel's final position at Taba is light-years away from Israel's opening position today."

[The proposals made in 2000 were made with the understanding they would have no future standing if there was no agreement. "Either everything is agreed upon or nothing is agreed upon."

When the Palestinian Arabs rejected Israel's overly generous offer, that offer came off the table. For the American government to put it back on the table is a breach of faith.]

Israel's main problem is the Palestinians' lack of faith in Olmert's and Livni's intentions. Construction in Har Homa and reports of talks toward a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza have created great suspicion on the Palestinian side.

[Israel's main problem is the refusal of the Palestinian Arabs to adhere to their earlier commitments. There is no basis for having an faith in the intentions of the Palestinian Arabs or their leadership.]

The U.S. administration is not satisfied with Israel's conduct, especially with regard to the tender for new construction in Har Homa and reports of planning for a new neighborhood in Atarot in north Jerusalem. U.S. State Department officials have conceded there is a feeling in Washington that, "It isn't clear who's in charge in Israel - the government or the officials that approve the construction."

[It would be far more constructive to pay attention to the Arab violations of their commitments on the roadmap, rather than Israel not adhering to portions which shouldn't have been in the roadmap in the first place and to which they never committed.]

Assistant Secretary of State David Welch has even reportedly told Livni that the U.S. does not know what surprise might bog down the talks again. In comments behind closed doors, U.S. officials say that they want assurances from Israel that a Har Homa-style incident will not recur.

[Again, U.S. officials should work on getting assurances that Abbas adheres to the important commitment to end terrorism, rather than pressuring Israel about housing in its capital.]

Livni, the main impetus behind the talks, reportedly wants to keep them low profile to avoid widely-publicized crises like those in the last round of talks between the teams. Olmert also wants to move the talks ahead, but to do so without breaking up the coalition. Meanwhile, sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said that negotiations will not move ahead, at least not before President George W. Bush's visit on January 9.

One of the problems in the talks is that Israel has still not decided how the political-security establishment will prepare for them.

Olmert met with Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday to discuss the matter.

The main point of agreement among the three is to appoint Brigadier General Udi Dekel as head of the negotiation administration, although it is not clear whether he has accepted the post.

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