Is Bibi Turning Dovish?

If the Palestinians can’t make peace with each other, how can they make peace with Israel?  Fatah said it supports the two-state approach while Hamas opposes any Jewish state.

There is an Israeli corollary for that right inside the Netanyahu government.  It sometimes resembles a circular firing squad, with the ministers in a ring taking potshots toward the middle. The prime minister and some of his coalition partners support the two-state approach (with various conditions) while others are stridently opposed to Palestinian statehood.  Complicating that one of his Likud rivals has been telling all who will listen that the PM isn’t serious about the two-state approach but he feels confident he can get away with saying it because the Palestinians are afraid to call his bluff.

These days Netanyahu is sounding like a peacenik, saying all the right things – even offering to sit in a tent halfway between Ramallah and Jerusalem and “negotiate for as long as it takes” to cut a deal with the Palestinians – while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sticks with his uncompromising preconditions and threatens to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. Read more about it in my Jerusalem Post column.

Aaron David Miller, a former senior U.S. Mideast envoy and now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said both sides have to stop blaming the United States for the lack of peace. “I’m really tired of Israeli peaceniks hammering the United States for not rescuing the peace process and of Arabs waiting for us to punish Israel, which too many ridiculously dismiss as either America’s master or its unruly child,” he wrote in a wide ranging critique entitled “What’s really wrong in the Middle East?” It is well worth reading.

Kerry, on his fifth trip to the region said progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace is needed before September, he said, adding that “time is the enemy of a peace process.”  Translation: The United Nations General Assembly meets in September, and the Palestinian Authority has been threatening to use its new observer-state status to push a rash of anti-Israel moves in a body that reflexively votes against Israel.

Kerry wants to head off the showdown at the Great Hall of the Winds on the East River and get both sides to bend enough to get them to the table and avoid another schism.

Kerry’s energy and enthusiasm notwithstanding, the greatest barrier remains a lack of trust on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.  Netanyahu reiterated again on Kerry’s arrival that he is ready and eager to meet Abbas across the negotiating table, but the reluctant Palestinian president so far remains skeptical and seems to be sticking to preconditions and unwilling to test the Israeli leader’s sincerity.

Kerry is keeping his strategy close to the vest, with few leaks coming from all three sides — which could be a good sign. 

With Israelis and Palestinians so deeply divided, the most that could be expected for the foreseeable future would be a partial deal, said Yossi Beilin, a leading peace advocate and former Justice minister. But first Kerry has to get them into the same room.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.