Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are supposed to meet in DC for a second round of talks next week, and, like clockwork, the Netanyahu government is doing everything it can to wreck those talks before they happen:
The Israeli government on Sunday added 20 more illegal settlements to a list drawn up in 2009 of Jewish communities prioritised for aid.
Some of the illegal settlements on the list are strongholds of Jewish Home, a nationalist party in the government coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected Palestinian calls for a freeze on settlement construction as a condition to resume peace talks.
Netanyahu is insisting that his precondition (that the PA recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state) be met before serious talks can take place, and he’s right to do it! The PA should, at a minimum, recognize Israel’s right to exist as a precursor to negotiations. But how about a little reciprocity? How can the Palestinians be expected to negotiate on a peace deal when their land is being swiped out from under them while the negotiations are going on? They can’t; Abbas already has no credibility with his own people, and if he were to negotiate with the Israeli without getting a settlement freeze first it would be seen as acting contrary to Palestinian interests. Instead of being seen as an incompetent lug of a president, he’ll be perceived as an agent of Israeli interests. Despite Abbas’ myriad flaws, there is nobody else who can possibly muster enough support to be a credible negotiating partner for Netanyahu, and, hey, maybe what’s what Bibi wants. After all, if Palestinian internal dysfunction is so bad as to block the peace process, then he can’t be blamed for sabotaging it!
There’s also a new poll going around that suggests that none of this matters, since a majority of Israelis would reject a peace deal on the basis of the 1967 borders plus swaps:
Of the 602 people questioned, 55.5 percent said they were against Israel agreeing to the 1967 lines, even if there were landswaps which would enable some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to remain part of Israel.
Among Israel’s majority Jewish population, opposition to such an agreement was 63 percent, while among Israeli Arabs, a minority group, only 15 percent objected to such a deal.
The issue, which refers to the lines that existed before the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbours, is considered key to sealing any deal.
This isn’t good, but I’d argue that it’s very premature and misleading to ask people about the particulars of a peace deal before real negotiations have even started. The 67 borders may not appeal to most Israelis (who apparently would only accept a “Palestine” that exists as a collection of small Bantustans; i.e., apartheid) right now, but if an actual accord were really in sight I have a hard time believing that it wouldn’t be able to pass an Israeli referendum. I’m sure that Netanyahu’s government, particularly his hard-line coalition partners, will latch on to this poll though.