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Encountering Peace

By Gershon Baskin, the Jerusalem Post

via the Jerusalem Post (Click here for original)

President Barack Obama and the US administration are losing patience being forced to deal with the pettiness of Israeli-Palestinian bickering over procedural issues. That is what New York Times award-winning journalist Thomas Friedman tells us. His word of advice: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should give in to the US request for another 60 days of settlement-building moratorium as a small price to pay for the kind of support Israel gets from the US.

Perhaps someone has even reminded Netanyahu that Friedman plays golf with Obama, and usually knows what he’s talking about when giving advice regarding what he wants.
Let’s face it, the settlement-building glitch, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Mabat, was of American making. The newly inaugurated Obama insisted that Israel freeze all settlement building, to which Abbas responded, “How can anyone expect that I demand less?” This is not to belittle the demand for a settlement freeze; the Palestinians have witnessed negotiations taking place while the territory being discussed has shrunk beyond recognition. Clearly, Israel cannot be serious about negotiating peace while continuing to build on land that will eventually be part of a Palestinian state.
President George W. Bush made the same demand, and even wrote it into the road map, but I guess no one really took him seriously because after the Annapolis summit in November 2007, direct bilateral negotiations went into full force and continued to the end of Ehud Olmert’s premiership. Israel didn’t cease building for even one day.
SO WHERE to now? Either Netanyahu gives in to the American demand/request, or Abbas gives in, or the US could say to both: You have our phone number; call us when you’re serious. For now, Palestinians are examining various unilateral steps. Israel is busy issuing its own threats of unilateral steps in its arsenal. The US administration continues to seek a magic formula to bring the parties back to the table.
I suppose that if Netanyahu and Abbas had any confidence in their ability to reach a real agreement, they would find their own way back to the table. But apparently neither believes an agreement is possible, so why risk their political careers? Peace should be slightly more important to them than to the US president. Why there are no local efforts to move the process forward is bewildering, given that neither Israel nor Palestine has any strategic options for sustainable national existence without peace