Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen addressing the Knesset last year, has not taken a position on a unilateral strategy to end the stalemate in negotiations with the Palestinians. | Sebastian Scheiner~AP
Updated: June 12, 2012 8:16AM
In unveiling his surprise national unity government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear he is ready to join the Palestinians in a “responsible peace process.” Unfortunately but predictably, the Palestinians show no signs of abandoning the Arab rejectionism that has for decades foreclosed every realistic option to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
To establish the broadest coalition government in Israel’s history, Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud, party joined forces with Shaul Mofaz, leader of the centrist Kadima party, who has said Israel’s gravest threat is not a nuclear-armed Iran but the unresolved conflict. The two reached unspecified “understandings” to advance the peace process. It remains to be seen what the Israelis can offer to entice the Palestinians out of their futile always-say-no mania.
It’s worth recalling that at a 2000 Camp David meeting, Israel offered the Palestinians what every reasonable observer called the best deal ever only to see Yassir Arafat reject it to wage a terror war killing thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. In 2008, when Kadima was in power, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on land, refugees and security and showed up at a U.N. meeting with a deal only to find Abbas had gone mute.
Since then, the conditions for peace have deteriorated. In what can only be described as incompetent blundering, President Barack Obama in 2009 made a demand that the Palestinians had never advanced — that Israel stop all construction in the disputed territories of the West Bank as a precondition for talks. That is now the default position of Abbas, though he never entered long-term negotiations when Israel stopped building for 10 months.
Also making it much more risky for Israel to make concessions is the turmoil raging through the Arab world. The rise of Islamist elements, some quite extreme, in Egypt threatens the durability of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, long the bedrock of what passes for stability in the Middle East. Demonstrations organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in seven cities in Jordan last week featuring chants of “death to Israel” called for rejecting Jordan’s 1994 peace pact with the Jewish state.
Syria teeters on the brink of civil war. Calling the shots in the Syrian National Council, the main opposition force to President Bashir Assad, is the Muslim Brotherhood, reports Reuters. Casting a dark shadow across the region and beyond is the nuclear weapons program in Iran. Hamas terrorists still rule the Gaza Strip.
For his part, Abbas is incapable, or worse, unwilling, to prepare his people for peace. Official Palestinian Authority maps of “Palestine” include all of Israel. Abbas rejects three millennia of Jewish history in Jerusalem, only days ago saying Israel seeks to “create an artificial heritage with a Jewish spirit at the expense of its true and authentic [identity] as an Arab, Islamic and Christian city,” reports the Palestinian Media Watch.
We’ll have to wait to see exactly what the Netanyahu-Mofaz “understandings” are. Perhaps Israel should, as some suggest, just unilaterally draw its borders, giving some of its land to Abbas in exchange for settlement areas, keep troops in the West Bank to hold down the terror threat, and wait for the Palestinians to at long last embrace peace and a final negotiated settlement.