Does Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. have a point?

Writing in The Wall Street Journal (which has a preference for Israeli propaganda), Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said that advancing a peace process now depends not on Netanyahu and his government or President Obama but the Palestinians.

Under the headline Israel’s Settlement Freeze, the essence of Oren’s case was this.

“What Mr. Mitchell and Mrs. Clinton understand, but what the Palestinians miss, is that Mr. Netanyahu has shown more flexibility on this issue than any previous head of his Likud Party, which is staunchly pro-settlement. Indeed, he has gone further than any prime minister in limiting a right that many Israelis consider incontestable and a vital component of their national security.”

Oren pointed out that on his home front Netanyahu’s decision to suspend new Israeli construction has been fiercely criticized, even by members of his own party.

“The prime minister,” Oren continued, “has nevertheless persisted – his coalition is among the strongest and most representative in Israel’s history – but the opportunity generated by his action will not endure indefinitely. Together with the Obama administration, which has repeatedly asserted its commitment to re-starting talks without preconditions and to achieving a permanent two-state solution, Israelis hope that Palestinians will once again join them in talks. By taking risks and accomplishing the unprecedented, Mr. Netanyahu has demonstrated his commitment to peace. Now the Palestinians must match that dedication and seize this propitious moment.”

For the sake of discussion let’s ignore the fact that Netanyahu’s freeze is only partial; does not apply to occupied Arab East Jerusalem; and that the settlers have been assured that when the freeze ends, it will be back to construction and, by definition, more consolidation of Israel’s hold on occupied Arab land.

Now to my headline question.

Again for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that Oren does have a point. How then should the Palestinians respond? My suggestion is this.

President Abbas calls a press conference and says something very like the following.

“I am now ready, without preconditions, to sit down and talk with Prime Minister Netanyahu. But I am giving notice of the one question I will ask and to which only a “Yes” or “No” answer is required. The question is this. Prime Minister, in exchange for peace with the whole Arab and wider Muslim world, is your government prepared to withdraw from all Arab land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem but on the understanding that if all the parties agreed, it would remain an undivided city and the capital of two states?”

President Abbas could conclude his very short statement with something like this.

“The fact that I have given advance notice of the question may of itself be enough to cause Prime Minister Netanyahu to find an excuse for not meeting with me and blaming me. But the world should know this. Were the two of us to meet, and if he answered my question with a “Yes”, we would be kick-starting a real process that would deliver peace for all.”

To my readers I say – good idea or not?

10 comments on this post.
  1. Mary:

    Unfortunately, I cannot imagine Netanyahu even staying in the room long enough to listen to Abbas’ question.

    I have a question of my own: Is anyone (Abbas, Obama, even Michael Oren) stupid enough to take his partial settlement freeze seriously? Netanyahu has publicly admitted that once it ends, the flurry of construction will resume, and so this means (unless you’re just too dense to think ahead even a little) that the so-called peace process is dead in the water at this moment, and will be even deader a year from now.

    The settlers are upset because they want to build now, not next year. Other than that, they have nothing to worry about other than a temporary construction delay. Netanyahu has thrown a bone to his political opponents while still successfully maintaining his coalition. Once again, he scores. Bibi 3, Obama and the Palestinians, 0.

  2. Bill:

    There is no freeze in settlements. Israel has given up nothing. There is tremendous construction going on in Jerusalem as we speak, and there is a complete disparity between economics and quality of life between Palestinians and Israel. Israel has managed to completely destroy the life style and public infrastructure of the occupied territories. It is definitely an Israeli Apartheid. Mr. Netanyahu, tear down the wall, and get out of Palestinian occupied territories.

  3. syed mehdi hasan ashraf:

    Hoping that one day peace will prevail in palastine soon,is nothing but a wishful thinking.Only nature can put things right there believe it or not.How ever your advice to mr ABBAS does provide result oriented solution.

  4. Mary:

    The construction in East Jerusalem may even be accelerating in the shadow of the West Bank freeze. The West Bank is already chopped up into Palestinian ghettoes; now the hard work is to establish Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which Israel is doing with a vengeance. And the US, useful idiot as always, smiles upon Netanyahu and pronounces it all good. On the other hand, the EU may be the ones to put the brakes on this complicity; I sure hope so.

  5. David Gaines:

    {{ Prime Minister, in exchange for peace with the whole Arab and wider Muslim world, is your government prepared to withdraw from all Arab land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem but on the understanding that if all the parties agreed, it would remain an undivided city and the capital of two states? }}

    Isn’t this essentially the official Arab League proposal (, which is fine with me, but hasn’t Israel already rejected it?

  6. Mary:

    I think Israel wants to keep the Golan Heights and is in talks with Syria (off and on). Also, if Israel says within the green line it will have to give back all the land it stole when it built the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank, as well as the illegal settlements and outposts built there. It would have to give back an aquifer it controls and figure out another way to provide adequate water to Israel proper. Israel does not want to give back anything, does not intend to give back anything, and is still in the business of stealing.

  7. Brad Brzezinski:

    The question this raises concerns the definition of, “peace with the whole Arab and wider Muslim world.”

    Consider for example, the peace with Egypt; it is so fragile that in non-government circles, Egyptians having any official relationship with Israelis are ostracized. Diplomatically, Egypt is at war with Israel at the U.N.

    Given the current and ongoing blatant “anti-Israeliism” and even antisemitism extant in much of that world (in government controlled media), how seriously can such a peace offer be taken? Who would guarantee it and how?

    Furthermore, consideration would have to be given to the extremist views of (what used to be) non-state actors. Hamas and Hizb’allah are the best current examples. Hamas controls Gaza and might in future take over the “West Bank.” Hizb’allah is now in effective control of Lebanon. Both these groups have to date been intractable in their non-acceptance of Israel and in their official antisemitism. What would peace mean with them running neighbouring countries once Israel has taken the risk of giving up buffer land?

  8. Mary:

    Neither Hizbullah nor Hamas have a reputation for reneging on their promises, unlike Israel. I think any long-term peace deal Israel would make with them would be honored on their side; there is no reason to think otherwise. On the other hand, Israel has proven many times that it cannot be trusted. As for “buffer land,” the whole region is so small that the land you refer to isn’t effective as any sort of “buffer”.

    As for “extremist views,” that is a matter of opinion and of media coverage which distorts the views of Hamas and Hizbullah to conform to the “terrorist organization” meme. Israel’s settlers and many of its politicians (Avigdor Lieberman, to name one) seem pretty extremist to me.

  9. Brad Brzezinski:

    Mary: by “extremist,” I refer to the expressed desire of these two organisations to do away with Israel and indeed, all Jews. This is quite plain if one reads Palestinian, Lebanese and other media, particularly in Arabic. The Hamas Charter expresses it all quite well. (There are other more conciliatory things said here and there, but the ultimate goals as described always remain.)

    In this environment, the problem with any “long-term” solution is that there is a term. Israel has to wonder what happens at the end of it.

    (I acknowledge your first paragraph and have not answered it because this kind of forum does not lend itself to a fruitful discussion on that kind of issue. In any case, I think the point I have made above is key; the other issues seem relatively trivial.)

  10. Mary:

    Hamas isn’t stupid; they’re not about to enter into any permanent peace agreement with Israel given the Zionist propensity for deceit and double-dealing.

    There is no logical reason why Israel should not enter into a long-term, non-permanent agreement with the Palestinians. It’s better than what they have now. And when they break it (which they will), all bets will be off, of course. On the other hand, if a miracle occurs and Israel abides by the agreement, it can either be renewed or made permanent at that time.

    The biggest reason Israel will not agree to a long term peace agreement with Hamas is that they do not want peace. They do not want to enter into any agreement where they will be held to account when they violate it, nor do they want to stop stealing land and resources from Palestinians.

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