Some Israelis lawmakers on Thursday were upset over what they viewed as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flippant decision to announce more Jewish “settlement activity” in the midst of US-brokered peace talks, even as reports indicated Israel doesn’t really need American involvement in the negotiating process, after all.
“Netanyahu is giving the American administration the finger,” MK Zehava Gal-On, leader of the extreme left-wing Meretz Party, said regarding the prime minister’s announcement that a tenders for an unspecified number of new housing units in existing Jewish communities would be issued in the coming weeks.
Netanyahu tied the new building tenders to the third release of jailed Palestinian terrorists agreed upon as part of the current peace talks.
So far, the negotiations brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry have failed to produce any positive results, despite Kerry’s repeated trips to the region. However, the headline story in Israel’s Yediot Ahronot on Thursday again suggested that Israel and the Palestinians really don’t need such overt American involvement in the peace process.
According to the report, Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas have been conducting backchannel negotiations for a number of years. The two leaders have been dispatching trusted advisors to London, where the interlocutors try to hash out daily disputes, present new ideas and exchange direct messages from Netanyahu and Abbas.
The goal of the meetings is three-fold: to find solutions to small day-to-day problems in the disputed territories, to lay the groundwork for a larger diplomatic breakthrough, and to create the necessary mechanism so that when the two sides reach a period of sufficient calm, serious efforts toward reaching a comprehensive, final agreement can begin quickly.
That these meetings have not yet accomplished their overall goal suggests that Washington is trying to fast-track a process that will continue to take time, that the two sides simply are not at a point where they can realistically reach a genuine, lasting peace agreement.
As further evidence that Kerry is stumbling about blindly, Israel’s Army Radio reported this week that his latest security proposals would give Israel full security control over the Jordan Valley border and the right to fly intelligence-gathering drones over a future Palestinian state. While those terms are acceptable to Israel, any observer with half a brain knows that the Arabs would never go for it, and, indeed, Kerry’s proposal has already been rejected outright by the Arab League.