Emanuel Shahaf

No partner for peace

The recent breakdown in the peace talks have clearly identified Israel as the partner who did not act in good faith in these negotiations. This may come to some of the readers as a surprise since both, the government and the local media (to a large extent) are captive to the convenient narrative, the one popular with the public at large: It’s the Palestinians who don’t miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity. Unfortunately, the facts are different, as US Secretary of State John Kerry had the nerve to point out in his recent testimony to the Senate.

This government had a signed agreement with the PA to deliver, by March 29, the 4th release of prisoners according to an agreed upon list that included Israeli citizens. Under pressure from the right wing factions in the coalition the government did not keep Israel’s part of the agreement and did not release the prisoners by the deadline. In addition to making no attempt at all to approve the prisoner release in the cabinet on time, it announced another 700 appartments to be built in Gilo, an act of bad faith if there ever was one. Both measures, one a default on a signed agreement and the other one, an action taken in bad faith, did not prevent the government and Zippi Livni herself, nor most of Israeli media to claim with a straight face that the Palestinians were the guilty party. They after all  announced that they would seek to join several UN aligned organizations. The fact that they did so only after Israel defaulted on the agreement did not interest anyone.

Now, after serious efforts to get the parties back to the negotiating table have almost succeeded, Abu Mazen had the gall to forge an agreement with Hamas. Nonwithstanding the fact that Israel has a vested interest in negotiating with a partner that speaks for all the Palestinians and non-withstanding the fact that Hamas is actually an active partner to Israel’s attempts to keep the border in the South quiet, the first thing PM Netanyahu did was speak out forcefully against the Fatah-Hamas agreement, in fact demanding from Abu Mazen to chose between Hamas and peace with Israel. It should be noted that it has been months since Hamas was party to any military activity directed against Israel, nor has it been at the receiving end of Israeli military action for quite a while.

Nothing in the agreement between Fatah/Abu Mazen and Hamas appears, at this time, problematic for Israel. According to the agreement, the joint government will be one of technocrats picked by Abu Mazen. By inference, it will likely not include people identified with Hamas.

Abu Mazen’s newly raised demands for a 3 months moratorium on construction in the territories and his demand to discuss borders during this period are perfectly reasonable. One might even be inclined to ask the question: If borders have not been discussed in the 9 months that the two sides have been negotiating, what has been discussed, if anything ?

The impressions created by the government and most of the media with minor exceptions with regard to the Palestinians and their positions are massively misleading the public and try to ram home one message almost in unison: There is no partner. An even cursory review of the developments will show one thing only: Indeed, there is no partner and it is us.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".