Israel not ready to make nice

For a country that tries so hard to prove that it is joined at the hip with the US, Israel has a strange way of demonstrating its affection sometimes.

Condoleezza Rice received a humiliating snub from Israel yesterday when it refused her offer to act as negotiator between its government and the Palestinian authorities.

Poor Condi has been working so hard to try and kick start peace talks between the new Palestinian Unity Government and Israel, but Olmert is playing his cards close to his chest. He can’t reject talks completely, so he appears to be trying to buy time.

A US official said last night that Mr Olmert agreed to resume face-to-face talks with Mr Abbas in a possible move towards restarting substantive peace talks. The official said Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas would initially hold low-key “confidence-building” sessions in the wake of the moderate Palestinian leader’s new power-sharing deal with Hamas militants.

Whatever could Olmert have in mind?

Another shadow was cast over Ms Rice’s efforts by the arrival yesterday of 2,000 Jewish settlers at the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh …­ evacuated in August 2005 under Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan.

UDATE 1: Jonathan Freedland has written a fascinating article where he proposes that Israel is turning down a wonderful opporunity:

Now there is a chance to break the deadlock. The 22 member nations of the Arab League are meeting for two days in Riyadh, with the Arab-Israeli conflict high on their agenda. They are preparing to make a remarkable offer: if Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders, pulling out of the West Bank and Gaza, they will agree to a full and comprehensive peace, including normal relations, between the entire Arab world and Israel.

With this in mind, the only question is, what is stopping Israel from accepting the offer:

This, in case anyone has forgotten, is what Israel says it has yearned for since its creation 59 years ago, the acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East by its neighbours. What’s more, Israel has always feared that a separate accord with the Palestinians would not hold because the Palestinians would be too weak to make historic compromises – on, say, the holy sites of Jerusalem – alone. An accord with 22 Arab nations would remove all such worries. Any final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would be underpinned, with the leading Muslim states giving their blessing to the concessions that would be required. And they would promise what Yasser Arafat never could: that the conflict was truly, finally, over.

Does it come down to the simple fact that the price is one that Israel’s leadership is not prepared to pay?

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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