When Netanyahu insists that all talks with the Palestinians should proceed "without preconditions", he is attempting to bypass international law, under which UN resolution 242 has made it very clear that Israel and the Palestinians should aim to return to the 1967 borders.
The preamble reminds us of the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security." It's as clear a way as possible to say that one can't hold on to territory acquired by war. After WWII, it was the international communities way of ending the chances of more world wars as empires sought to expand.
On 1 May 1968, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations made it clear that his country accepted the resolution:
"My government has indicated its acceptance of the Security Council resolution for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of a just and lasting peace. I am also authorized to reaffirm that we are willing to seek agreement with each Arab State on all matters included in that resolution."Now, Netanyahu appears to be saying that this is no longer the case.
So, once again, Mitchell goes to the Middle East and comes away smelling of failure. But the blame for all of this is skilfully being laid at the door of Abbas if this New York Times editorial is anything to go by.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rejected a Palestinian demand that direct negotiations be based on a statement by the Quartet confirming its position that the future Palestinian state will be based on the 1967 borders.
Meeting in Jerusalem with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, Netanyahu repeated his demand for the renewal of direct talks without preconditions. Mitchell briefed Netanyahu on his meeting on Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and gave the prime minister the Palestinian proposal.
It would be foolish for the Palestinian leader to alienate an American president who is committed to playing a more balanced role in negotiations.In other words, Obama has given in to Netanyahu's demands so Abbas should do the same. Even though this same New York Times editorial states this:
There are understandable reasons for Mr. Abbas’s reluctance. We also don’t know whether Mr. Netanyahu, a master manipulator, really wants a deal or whether his hard-line governing coalition would ever let him make one.Netanyahu doesn't want peace. His refusal to even recognise that negotiations should be based on UN resolution 242 and international law prove that point. If he can't agree that then he can't agree to anything.
And, as the New York Times hints at, his coalition of right wing fruitcakes are not going to allow him to come to any deal with the Palestinians.
But, nevertheless, we see this careful balancing act being performed by the New York Times, where the blame is pushed towards Abbas for asking for "too much", rather than towards Netanyahu for his intransigence.
The very fact that Netanyahu cannot agree that the 1967 borders should be the starting place for negotiations says all that needs to be said about how serious he is about peace. He is not. Remotely. Interested.
The constant worry is that direct talks will devolve into recriminations and new violence. But if Mr. Abbas is not at the table, there is no serious way of testing Mr. Netanyahu’s intentions and whether there is any real chance of peacefully achieving a Palestinian state. That is the prize Mr. Abbas may be able deliver and his rejectionist rivals — Hamas — cannot. Mr. Abbas, who has long advocated a negotiated two-state solution, is seriously wrong if he thinks his leverage — and the future of the Palestinians — is in staying on the sidelines.
The New York Times - and the Obama administration - should stop trying to lay the blame at the door of Abbas and direct that blame where it belongs. And it belongs at the door of the extremist government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
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