Talking Tachlis With Abbas
03/13/2014 - 17:00
Douglas Bloomfield

The question being asked in Jerusalem is whether Mahmoud Abbas will hear the same unpleasant truths about making peace and not missing another opportunity to create a Palestinian state when he visits the White House on Monday that Barack Obama had for Bibi Netanyahu last week.

Obama appears to be taking a more active role in the peace talks that until now he left largely to his indefatigable secretary of state.  It appears John Kerry has called in the president to help convince both leaders to accept his framework for taking the negotiations into the home stretch.

Kerry got Abbas and Netanyahu to agree to a nine-month round of talks, but by all accounts they remain deadlocked with little progress to report.  The secretary of state wants to extend until the end of the year, Netanyahu has suggested another year and Abbas so far insists on no extensions.

But he's bluffing because the last thing he wants is to be blamed by Obama for the collapse of the negotiations.  Look for him instead to try to negotiate additional concessions – such as settlement freeze, prisoner release, additional aid – for his begrudging acceptance of a continuance.

When the deadline comes, look for Bibi to say "yes, but" and Abbas "no, but."

Both parties have been complaining that they've been making all the concessions while the other one has been intransigent.  It's a familiar tune. You heard it when Bibi was here last week and you'll hear it again when Abbas has his own White House photo op.

Look for him once again to try to hide behind his weakness to deflect pressure to make the same kind of decisions Obama has demanded of the far stronger – though equally insecure– Netanyahu.

Next on the agenda is the President's trip to Saudi Arabia to mend fences – like Israel, the royals think he's not tough enough with Iran – and to ask King Abdullah to back the peace talks and give Abbas the backbone he needs to make a deal.

Abbas and Netanyahu may want to exploit the President's preoccupation with Ukraine and Russia to walk away from the talks and let him take the blame for their failure while they pursue their unilateral options, but they will find they are embarking on a dangerous and potentially violent collision course

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