As the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks begin, Barack Obama is said to be pressuring Abbas to continue the talks even if Netanyahu refuses to stop settlement building. Word from the Palestinian side is warning that this would be impossible for Abbas to agree with.
A senior Palestinian source told Haaretz that the American administration renewed its pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stay in direct negotiations with Israel, even if some construction in the settlements resumes after the end of the current moratorium. The source warned that Abbas would not be able to agree to a renewal of construction and will be forced to withdraw from the talks.It is obviously unlikely that Netanyahu will formally agree to suspend construction, after all, he also has his street to play to. But one would hope that an agreement could be reached where there was an understanding that this would cease.
According to the source, a Palestinian okay to the renewal of construction just as direct talks are resumed is politically impossible. Sources in Ramallah said yesterday that both the Israelis and Americans know Abbas' likely course of action.
But Abbas, if sources are to be believed, has certainly turned up prepared to compromise.
Abbas is, rightly, insisting that any land swap be done on a 1:1 basis in both size and quality. There will be no swapping of fertile Palestinian land for Israeli deserts as has been offered in previous deals.
Abbas would not be able to give up Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem and especially the Temple Mount, but large Jewish neighborhoods would be retained by Israel. If this much is achieved, Abbas will be able to agree that the refugee issue will be resolved primarily within the borders of the new Palestinian state, with only a few tens of thousands receiving Israeli citizenship as a humanitarian gesture.
At the moment, the Palestinian Authority does not seem to be determined to demand Israel take historical responsibility for the refugee problem.
The most obvious problem at the moment is the city of Ariel:
Netanyahu spoke of "painful concessions" being needed from both sides. Abbas has certainly arrived prepared to compromise on refugees and other areas, even if he is not hiding the fact that he is suspicious of Netanyahu's seriousness regarding the process. This suspicion was also reflected in the comments of Mubarak.
The PA does not believe it can agree to the city being annexed to Israel in a future agreement, since it is located near the middle of the West Bank, cutting into the territorial contiguity of a future state.
However, the PA might agree to allow some settlers to remain as Palestinian citizens, and realizes other settlement blocs - Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim and the Jewish neighborhoods around Jerusalem - will remain in Israeli hands in a future agreement.
We are all thinking the same thing. Netanyahu can talk the talk, now he must show us if he can walk the walk. It's easy to say that you want peace. But can he make the "painful compromises" he talks of in order to get it? And can he bring that right wing coalition he leads with him if he is prepared to do it?
Egyptian President Mubarak, with whom Netanyahu has forged a close relationship over the past year and a half, reminded him that he would soon be put to the test and challenged the Israeli leader to make good on his peace pledges.
"I met Netanyahu a few times since his election," Mubarak said at the ceremony. "He told me again and again he was serious and wants peace. Now is the time to show it."
Click here for full article.