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Even a one- or two-month extension of Israel’s ten-month settlement moratorium, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced on Sunday, wouldn’t suffice. Nothing less than a total freeze throughout the duration of Israeli-Palestinian talks would be acceptable.
Erekat was adding some spice to an international full-court press on Israel. On Friday, the Arab League, meeting in Libya—not exactly a beacon of advanced values—gave backing to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to conduct the talks without a settlement freeze. The league also handed the Obama administration a further month to try and break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over the freeze.
That month, of course, could get the administration past November 2 without appearing responsible for a foreign policy failure if the talks-over-the-talks come up empty at the end.
The facts of the case are quite straightforward. If the Palestinians really wanted the state that President Obama and so many others presume to be their most cherished aspiration—despite having rejected every offer of a state since 1937—they could have joined talks with Israel at least since its settlement freeze began in November last year. Even if the PA leadership had done so, there would still be the facts that: Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is dead-set against the talks; and PA leaders Abbas and Salam Fayyad, even if they genuinely wanted a deal, have little power and face staunch opposition to even talking with Israel in PA circles as well.
And yet, also on Sunday, another voice was added—from within Israel—to the Arab, Palestinian, American, and European pressure on Israel to make concession upon concession as a condition for engaging in talks at all. It was the voice of Israel’s opposition leader and former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.
Asserting that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu should give in to the pressure and extend the freeze, and accusing him of causing a fight with the Obama administration out of fear of fighting with his own right-wing cabinet ministers, Livni said in a TV interview: “For me, a moratorium has nothing to do with ideology. What are a few buildings compared with the people’s desire for peace?”
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