Israelis fear negotiations have become the goal

Sunday, July 21, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

Last Friday, visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry did appear to succeed in bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, sort of, though neither side expressed much hope that the end result would be a final status peace agreement.

Israel had for years been signaling its readiness to resume peace talks, but in the end it was the Jewish state that was still asked by Washington to make more concessions in order to entice the stubbornly non-compliant Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

Perhaps fearful of going too far in his intransigence and being finally recognized as the true obstacle to peace, Abbas, gifts in hand, eventually caved.

As part of the arrangement, Israel reportedly agreed to the following:

  1. Freeing 104 jailed Palestinian terrorists, some of whom directly murdered Israeli men, women and children;

  2. A huge injection of cash into the Palestinian Authority from the US, Europe and Arab states;

  3. Negotiations with the pre-1967 borders as a starting point, though Israeli officials later denied they had agreed to this condition.

In return, Abbas agreed not to take unilateral steps at the United Nations for the time being, and to restart talks even in the absence of a full Jewish "settlement freeze."

But even under those terms, a firm date for talks has yet to be set, and even when it is, the participants will be at the ministerial level, not between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu themselves.

For many in the region, it is beginning to feel like restarting negotiations is itself now the goal, with both sides haggling for concessions just to get that far. Very few expect whatever talks come after to actually produce any long-lasting results.

And to make sure Israel does not, under pressure from the Obama Administration, commit itself to any dangerous terms, Netanyahu has promised that if an agreement comes out of the new talks, it will have to be approved in a general referendum before being ratified by the Knesset.

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