May 13, 2013

Bibi talks the talk, about talks

The latest Mideast peace effort by Secretary of State John Kerry and some of the Gulf states is encouraging, but there's little new that hasn't been available to Israel and the Palestinians during the past five years. A little reality check never hurts.

A top Palestinian representative has just revealed that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had a series of talks over two years ago, but no negotiations, until the Israeli side discontinued the talks -- apparently without explanation. These preliminary 'talks about talks' even culminated in a face-to-face between Yasser Abed Rabbo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The first reaction I'm reading. and which I share, is that this means there's still some hope for an eventual return to kind of negotiations that had once been seen as natural and unremarkable. 

My own second reaction? Abed Rabbo's claim refutes Netanyahu's narrative that there is no one to talk to, that Israel is ready to re-open negotiations but for the unwillingness of the Palestinians to return to the table. 

Last fall, when the Palestinian Authority scored upgraded State Observer status at the United Nations, Netanyahu called the move a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords which undermines the possibility of a two-state solution. As I wrote at the time:

...the average Israeli would literally laugh at the idea that the Oslo Accords were anything but a failure, so why pretend they still care about preserving or fulfilling Oslo? Arguing that Netanyahu actually wants to negotiate a realistic two-state solution, without preconditions; that Israel eschews unilateral actions; that Israel has no partner for negotiations -- this should be insulting to most people who have an understanding of the issue. Those making such claims come off as either dishonest or naive. And it does not help Israel advance its case to anyone who's not already convinced.

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