Most of FrontPage Magazine’s readers already know that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yelled at the wrong guy in early December, 2011, when he scolded Netanyahu with his misplaced adjuration: “just get to the damn table.” But it will still be useful to take a quick look at the many times that Israeli leaders have invited Arab leaders to that “damn table” and have been rebuffed, in word and in deed, by Arab leaders.
For a summary of the 31 times since 1937 that Arab leaders have not only refused Israeli offers of peace, but have responded with war, terrorist attacks, and threats of genocide and annihilation, see two earlier articles by the present writer, here and here.
Over the past few years, there has emerged a new and different pattern that, while obvious and transparent, has not made much of an impression on Secretary Panetta or other of the USA’s or EU’s spokespersons.
This new pattern is: PA President Mahmoud Abbas creates pre-conditions for negotiations that he knows Israel cannot accept. Then he refuses to join in negotiations that are open-ended and without pre-conditions. Then he blames Israel for its refusal to agree to his unacceptable pre-conditions. Then Western leaders and journalists blame Israel for the “log jam” in negotiations.
In June 20091, shortly after he formed his coalition government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called publicly for direct negotiations toward a two-state solution. A PA spokesperson, speaking on behalf of President Abbas, declared the PA’s refusal to respond to Netanyahu’s invitation.
In November, 2009, Israel implemented its 10-month “settlement” construction freeze as a compromise response to US President Obama’s demands and called upon Abbas to join him “in meaningful peace negotiations…that will finally end the conflict.” Abbas again rejected Netanyahu’s invitation, first insisting that he would wait until the construction freeze was over before he would consider joining Netanyahu in negotiations; but then, when the 10-month freeze drew to an end, he threatening that he would not meet with Netanyahu unless the Israeli prime minister continue the freeze and extend it to include East Jerusalem, which had been excluded from the original freeze agreement.
In February 2011, Netanyahu again called for a resumption of negotiations, and made some goodwill gestures to enhance the Palestinian economy. Not only did Abbas rebuff these gestures, but he announced his intention to side-step negotiations with Israel and take his case for Palestinian statehood to the UN despite President Obama’s objections.
In May 2011, Netanyahu again offered to restart negotiations for a two-state solution and promised significant territorial concessions. Abbas ignored Netanyahu, President Obama, and even the loss of $200 million in American aid; and instead he wrote his infamous op-ed essay in the New York Times in which he promised that even when “Palestine” becomes the 194th state in the UN, the conflict would not be over. The new state of “Palestine,” once it became the 194th member of the UN’s family of nations, would pursue political avenues of redress against Israel at the UN, the International Court of Justice and other human rights milieus.
In September 2011, at his speech before the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu renewed his invitation to Abbas. Abbas refused the offer and instead pressed on with his ultimately unsuccessful attempt at UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
Even Netanyahu’s “economic peace” plan of September 2009, that would have helped return the West Bank to the economic prosperity that it enjoyed during most of the pre-Oslo era from 1967 to 2004, was summarily dismissed by Abbas because it demanded that the PA put a stop to terror attacks emanating from the West Bank. Abbas rejected it, saying that: “We refuse to be security agents for Israel.” In other words, the PA prefers to tolerate, and therefore encourage, terror attacks against Israel rather than engage in cooperation with Israel that will economically benefit the Arabs of the West Bank.