Abbas may outmaneuver Netanyahu

Sunday, August 15, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

Palestinian officials told various media outlets at the weekend that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will likely succumb to heavy American pressure to restart direct negotiations with Israel by the end of the week.

European governments are also pressing Abbas to return to the negotiating table, and the Arab League has given the Palestinians a green light to sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, Israeli officials told the Ynet news portal that they fear Abbas may be planning to outmaneuver Netanyahu.

The Israelis believe Abbas will stall and hold off the mounting international pressure by continuously releasing statements to the effect that he is about to agree to direct talks.

Abbas will do this, the Israelis suggested, until the self-imposed 10-month Jewish building freeze in Judea and Samaria expires on September 26, at which point the Palestinian leader will insist on a new building freeze at a precondition to negotiations.

Abbas knows that Netanyahu is already under intense pressure at home not to extend the building freeze. Netanyahu implemented the freeze, again, under US pressure, as a means of testing Abbas' willingness to make peace. The Palestinian leader's intransigence during that period, and his diplomatic maneuvering now, proved to many Israelis that he is not a viable peace partner.

Meanwhile, housing prices in large Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are skyrocketing due to a lack of new construction, and many jobs are being lost. Particularly hard hit have been Palestinian construction workers, who made up the bulk of the construction crews that worked non-stop in the Jewish towns before the freeze.

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