The latest round of Middle East “peace talks” in Washington have less chance of producing either a Palestinian state or legitimacy and security for Israel than even their previous editions.
• Mahmoud Abbas isn’t Arafat.
• Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist, political support from Turkey and weapons from Iran. Hamas and Iran are willing to mix Sunni and Shiite fundamentalist orthodoxies in the name of their greater enemies – Israel and Fatah. Turkey is stirring the pot.
• The Arab states are not interested in Palestine and want Israel to do something about their priority – Iran. Saudi Arabia, in particular, is not inclined to do anything for President Obama and regards the American position on Iran to be weak.
• Egypt’s ailing President Hosni Mubarak did not drag himself to Washington on behalf of a Palestinian state, but on behalf of his son Gamal.
• King Abdullah’s already minority position in his kingdom shrinks daily and there are calls to oust Palestinians lest they build a mini-State in Jordan as they did in Lebanon.
• Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t Prime Minister Barak.
• President Obama is neither President Clinton nor President Bush.
In a press conference last week, Senator Mitchell said there is a “window of opportunity” opened by “the presence, the patience, the perseverance and the commitment of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and the leaders of this administration.” With due respect, it is not a window but trompe l’oeil – the French decorating trick that “fools the eye” by drawing outdoor scenery on solid walls.
This is not to say there is no community of interest between Abbas and the Prime Minister, or that their private hour and a half together yielded no understanding. A fly on the wall might have heard the following:
Abbas: Don’t leave me. An Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank will have Hamas taking over within weeks – or less. They threw my troops– the first ones your American general trained – out of Gaza; they killed them in hospital beds and threw them off rooftops. Now they’re torturing Fatah supporters, torching UNRWA summer camps and shutting down Internet cafes. Hamas killed four of your people this week on the West Bank; they don’t like my people any better.
Netanyahu: “Judea and Samaria,” and it was five; one of the women was nine months pregnant. Six children were made orphans. And don’t complain to me about Hamas. You might have noticed that we removed 140 roadblocks and eight central checkpoints in 2008 and another 27 checkpoints and 140 roadblocks in 2009 – because you keep whining about them. Do you think that had anything to do with missing those Hamas guys? Just in August, we let 2,457 Palestinians exit Gaza to Israel, Judea and Samaria and beyond – because you keep whining about it. Do you think any of them were Hamas?
In the meantime, would you please stop telling your children that Jews put Palestinian children in ovens and the IDF killed Mickey Mouse?
Abbas: That was Hamas.
Netanyahu: Whatever. You built the Sbarro pizzeria bombing museum and named a square for Dalal Mugrabi, whose claim to fame is killing 37 Eged bus drivers and their families on holiday and one American nature photographer. Israel is a legitimate, sovereign, Jewish country. Get over it.
Abbas: Will you stop harping on that “legitimacy” thing? I’ve got the same problem with Hamas – they don’t think I’m any more legitimate than you are. If I give up a major card – your legitimacy, your Jewishness, your rights, your borders – Hamas will make me a laughing stock with my own people. A dead laughing stock.
Netanyahu: You keep calling them “your people.” You didn’t have an election in 2009 because you were afraid you would lose. We call a person who rules without a mandate a dictator. Who are your people and how do you know?
Abbas: I know this – I’m the one on the hot seat and you don’t want what comes after me.
I also know that I used to be able to find some space between the Americans and Hamas so I could call myself a moderate between the extreme pro- and anti-Israel factions. That’s how I stayed alive and raked in the big bucks from the EU. But with President Obama demanding a “total” settlement freeze and that I declare an independent state in less than two years, I’m being squeezed in between two radicals. I certainly can’t be more “moderate” than the President, so I find myself being pushed closer to Hamas.
Netanyahu: Finally, we agree. But don’t worry. I’m not leaving you with your American-trained army in Judea and Samaria – nine miles from the coast of Israel – without Israeli supervision.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director for Security Policy at The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in Washington.