I’ve been waiting for Emily to talk about this, but she apparently is off basking in her new-found celebrity, but I’m wondering what the take on this is from you all:
This week, world leaders reportedly telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge him to extend the freeze. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an end to settlement building following a meeting in Paris with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Quartet peacemaking envoy Tony Blair met with Netanyahu twice over four days. All to no avail.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, say they will wait a week before carrying out the threat of withdrawing from the peace talks.
“Of course we don’t want to end negotiations; we want to continue,” Abbas told Europe 1 radio, according to Israel’s daily Haaretz. “But if colonization continues, we will be forced to end them.”
In Israel, the only response is the rumbling of earth-moving equipment headed for construction sites in the West Bank.
That’s because what is perceived around the world as Israeli stubbornness is seen much differently in Israel. The differences in outlook cut to the heart not only of how Israelis view these negotiations but how they view the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state.
In Jerusalem, it is the Palestinians who are seen as stubborn for sticking to their insistence that settlement building be halted before coming to the negotiating table. Never before had such a precondition been imposed on negotiations; in the past, Israelis and Palestinians talked while both continued to build in their respective West Bank communities.
Having offered the freeze unilaterally 10 months ago to coax the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and satisfy U.S. demands for an Israeli good-will gesture, the Israeli government sees itself as the accommodating party whose gesture was never reciprocated. Rather, it took the Palestinian nine months to agree to resume negotiations, leaving virtually no time for substantive progress before the freeze expired.
Then there are the political considerations: Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition partners made clear that extending the freeze was a nonstarter. Perhaps most important, however, the freeze was seen by many Israelis as unfair.
My hunch is that if the talks blow up, the feeling around the globe will be that Israel blew them up intentionally.