I may be skeptical about the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
that began in Washington last week, but at least I'm not in the Israeli
government. Avigdor Lieberman, however, is, and it looks like the foreign minister
-- who lives in a West Bank settlement -- is out to sabotage the negotiations.
Speaking at a gathering of his far-right Yisraeli Beiteinu party Sunday,
said that a complete, final peace deal would not be possible -- "not next
year and not for the next generation."
He also said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "will not
sign an agreement with Israel," but that he wouldn't take up arms, either. "The
only practical solution," Lieberman said, "is a long-term interim agreement, on
which we can debate. Our proposal is: No to unilateral concessions, no to continuing
the settlement freeze, yes to serious negotiations and mutual gestures of good
Haaretz also channels
Israeli cabinet ministers' complaints
that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, isn't sharing details of his
discussions with Abbas (many of them would love to be able to leak controversial
bits to the press and blow up the talks) or his plan to deal with the impending
expiration of his 10-month settlement freeze (a
majority wants to start building again). Meanwhile, senior Abbas aides are
already feuding in the press and spreading strategic leaks of their own.
It will take an unimaginable change of heart, not to mention
skillful coalition management, by Netanyahu, to make these negotiations succeed
-- and that's assuming he really wants to do it and isn't just trying to relieve
American pressure. (Israeli commentator Aluf Benn predicts
that Bibi's about to pull a "Nixon to China" moment, but I'm not persuaded by clichés.)
Already, it looks to me like both sides expect the talks to
fail and are maneuvering to hang that failure on the other guy. Abbas has said
repeatedly and unequivocally that he'll walk out if building resumes, while the
Israeli government remains committed -- at least publicly -- to letting the
freeze expire. According to the Jerusalem
Post, 57 projects are ready to drop on
Sept. 27, the day after the moratorium ends (indeed, some projects have already begun).
Carlos Stenger calls forth a parade
of horribles to expect if and when the talks fall apart: an uptick in terrorist
attacks, the possible dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, a return to
full Israeli control of the West Bank, growing diplomatic isolation for Israel.
So what's Plan B?
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