Here we go again.
Reports from Israel indicate that the Netanyahu government, under pressure from the Obama administration to come up with some kind of plan to advance the stalled peace process, is floating the idea of abandoning talks for a final agreement with the Palestinians, and instead pressing for an interim agreement that would create a kind of Palestinian quasi-state with temporary borders.
Israeli officials reportedly believe this would get the world off their back, according to the Wall Street Journal, and “satisfy Western concerns that a prolonged stalemate in Israeli peace talks with the Palestinians would boost the appeal of Islamist forces vying for power across the Middle East.”
If I were Bibi, I wouldn't be holding my breath.
You don't need to work for a Middle East think tank to realize there's no way any Palestinian leader could accept a proposal that would leave Israeli settlements across the West Bank where they are – assuming, for a moment, that they would accept ANY plan at this point, which I doubt.
It seems equally unlikely a world that is increasingly unified in seeing settlements as a major problem will accept a 10-year delay in a final status agreement that would resolve the settlement issue once and for all – ten years in which almost everybody believes Israel would continue to solidify the network of West Bank settlements, making their ultimate removal even more difficult.
And Washington? Facing growing skepticism around the world about whether it was ever serious about making Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority and trying to sort out the implications of the current wave of rebellion washing across the Middle East, I can't see the Obama administration buying it, either.
I'm guessing Netanyahu is counting on administration frustration, betting that its desire to see SOMETHING – anything – might lead Washington to accept an idea Washington has rejected in the past.
It doesn't seem like a very good bet to me. Instead, it looks like an Israeli PR gambit that's going to impress ... well, nobody.
Netanyahu is right in asserting that the Palestinian leadership has no interest in negotiating, preferring instead to use international opinion and the United Nations as bludgeons to add to the pressure on Jerusalem without the inconvenience of actually talking to the Israelis and making compromises.
But I see no indications the Netanyahu government is any more interested in restarting the stalled talks; this week's speculation about an interim plan may be confirmation of that reluctance.
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