The Middle East has seen much drama in the last few days, so I've collected a survey of four articles reflecting different points of view to stimulate discussion.
Working backward in chronological order for those of you are are busy and may only want to hear the latest in just the last hour, Micheal Gordon, and Isabel Kershiner report in the The New York Times thattt,
ALGIERS — Israel has called off plans to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, people involved in the threatened peace talks said Thursday, an indication of the severity of the impasse between the two sides despite the pressure from Secretary of State John Kerry to keep the negotiations alive.
This decision was in response to the decision by Palestinian President Abbas to sign the application to join 15 UN organizations on Tuesday and threaten to join the International Criminal Court to have Israel prosecuted for war crimes.
Abbas says he took this action because Israel reneged on its promise to release the fourth batch of prisoners previously promised.
Prime Minister Netanyanu was reported to have been shocked to see the news broadcasts of President Abbas signing the UN applications but as been unusually quite which has been interpreted as a sign he does not want to inflame the situation.
The Maan News Agency quoted unidentified Palestinian officials on Thursday who described the nine-hour meeting in Jerusalem as a “fierce political battle” in which Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, announced that he represented “the U.N.-recognized State of Palestine,” not the Palestinian Authority, “whose inputs and outputs are controlled by Israel.”
Israeli negotiators responded with threats of “endless” sanctions on Palestinians, Maan reported, and Mr. Erekat made threats of his own about prosecuting Israelis as “war criminals” in international institutions, while Martin Indyk, the American envoy, struggled to control the “heated exchanges.”
The dramatic turnaround, on Tuesday, of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas applied for membership in 15 UN organizations creating confusion for Israelis and Americans about his intentions with regard to the peace talks. A senior Fatah negotiator clarified, as reported by the Times of Israel, in Palestinian official: Talks can continue, but only on borders, by saying the" ‘door still open,’ challenges Israel to produce map based on pre-1967 lines."
Palestinian negotiators would be willing to continue peace talks with Israel, but only to discuss defining the borders of a future state, a senior Palestinian official said in comments published Thursday. ... but should they fail, they will seek to join 63 international organizations including the International Criminal Court."
If Palestine were recognized as a state by the International Criminal Court, Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and the destruction of Arab housing and forced evictions from their homes could be considered war crimes under existing international law, potentially placing Benjamin Netanyahu in the same category with Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.
President Netanyahu's counter threat is that President Abbas were to join any UN organizations, or attempt to join the ICC, he would have all American aid to Palestine cut off, and he appears to have the power to do this.
To be clear Abbas has not applied to the ICC yet, but only 15 other humanitarian organizations, but is threatening to, should Israel not return to the table and start talking about specific border swaps based on the 1967 borders which Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects. Dozens of Congressmen have made it clear that Netanyahu only needs to say the words to cut of Palestinian aid
Abed Rabbo, a PA spokesperson said President Abbas remained committed to the US peace process.
Israel said the move by Abbas "torpedoed a complicated deal Israel had proposed to extend negotiations for 15 months, if the U.S. released Jonathan Pollard, and Israel released the final 400 prisoners, the PA says were already promised. They said they have become tired of such tricks and no longer believe Israel is serious about peace.
Also, the proposed release of notorious convicted spy Jonathan Pollard had raised outrage in the American intelligence and military communities whose members have died to protect our country against traitors like Pollard who confessed to stealing U.S. nuclear targeting codes for Israel almost 30 years ago.
Israeli officials were quoted earlier Wednesday saying Abbas had “torpedoed” a nascent, complex, three-way deal under which Israel would have freed a final batch of 26-30 long-term Palestinian terror convicts and also released 400 more Palestinian security prisoners not guilty of violent crimes, peace talks would have extended beyond the current April 29 deadline, and the US would have released American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Livni also says she believed talk would continue, however, some conservatives in Prime Ministers Netanyahu's Likud Party are demanding her resignation and that Israel renounce peace talks and annex East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin lambasted Livni for meeting with Erekat, saying it was “a disgrace to the State of Israel.”
“The time has come to stop being the go-to sucker of the Middle East,” he said. “I call on the prime minister and Minister Livni to end the entire negotiation process so long as Abbas doesn’t withdraw his request from the United Nations, and unilaterally implement the many measures Israel has in order to convince the Palestinian leadership that it doesn’t pay for them to fight us in the international arena.”
The U.S. State Department has said that in the last 36 hours there have been "unhelpful statements," on both sides.
Barak Ravid, of Haaretz writes and editorial Mr. Kerry, go home: Netanyahu, Abbas must be made to realize that without U.S. they're knee deep in mud – or blood.
Neither the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president are prepared to carry out the historic compromises that might lead to a breakthrough. The two figures are mirror images of each other. They each want chiefly to preserve the status quo and shift the responsibility for the talks’ failure to the other. ...
Kerry must go home. He must tell American envoy Martin Indyk and his team to pack their bags and take the first flight out of Ben-Gurion International Airport to the United States. He must ask the U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv Dan Shapiro and consul general in Jerusalem Michael Retney to give the same answer to the calls from the prime minister’s office and the Muqata — “You didn’t want us, now get along by yourselves.” ../
From the moment the Americans leave, it won’t take long before both sides scream "gevalt" and beg Kerry to return. If the Americans wanted to get involved in the peace process again after such a crisis, they could do so on their own terms. They could demand that the leaders make decisions, not just continue the process or negotiations. They could put a draft framework agreement on the table and tell Netanyahu and Abbas: Sign here, please.
And, this from the staff of the Jerusalem Post, Palestinians warn: We will join the Hague.
A focus on border negotiations would show if Israel and the US are serious about reaching an agreement, he said, adding that the PA planned to join 63 international organizations, including the International Criminal Court, if the talks did not produce a border deal.
PA envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour suggested that PA President Mahmoud Abbas might apply for even more memberships in international organizations, as the PA is eligible for up to 550, according to a report by Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
But Abbas's decision could backfire on him in the US Congress, where pro-Israel sentiment runs high. Several lawmakers warned on Wednesday that a Palestinian resort to international agencies could trigger a cutoff of US aid.
Netanyanu demands Abbas renounce the refugee Arab Israeli's "right of return," something he says he has no legal right to do," and also as a prerequisite to negotiations recognize Israel as a "Jewish State." Abbas, and the Palestinian authority has recognized Israel as a state but say they cannot, and should not get involved with Israel's internals affairs as that would be unfair and a potential violation of the human and political rights of Israel's 30% Arab non-Jewish citizens, as well as secular Israelis and that that both of these issues, are off the table.
In an odd way, perhaps, this nearly total breakdown might represent progress. Israel does not need permission from Abbas or the Palestinians to exist. They exist, and the whole world know it. They have 75 to 400 nuclear weapons. No country dare to attack them. Netanyahu does not really need this symbolic gesture from Abbas, it has mostly likely way of stalling.
Israel has already made itself a religious state, it does not need permission from Abbas.
Similarly, the UN, the US and nearly every country in the world recognizes the 1967 borders as he base lines border for negotiated swaps to minimize problems with settlements ending up on the wrong side. Let's get down to drawing the lines.
Similarly, with having Abbas renounce the "rights of return" for the millions of former non-Jewish citizens of Israel scattered around the globe. As Abbas has pointed out, he has no legal authority to speak for refugees outside of Palestine. And, Israel does not need his permission to either refuse them entry or not. This is really none of Abbas' business.
But, whatever, our opinions do not really matter, only those of Israel and Palestine. but it would seem that the only urgent business Israel and Palestine really have is to resolve their borders and withdraw to within them. Let's hope this apparent crisis, weeping, and gnashing of teeth is a sign they are about to get serious.
PS I know some people have some sensitivities around I/P issues. I've tried to steer clear of the more controversial areas. If I've accidentally stirred anything up, let me apologize in advance, as I am hoping for just some "light" discussion tonight. It's been a long day. -- Cheers. (My Mom used to say "Sticks and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me." I think maybe she was wrong about that. lo )