Two op-eds appearing side-by-side this morning in the International Herald Tribune illustrate how peace in the Middle East could make real progress in the near future—and how the current settlement freeze’s failure to include East Jerusalem might doom this opportunity.
Mustafa Barghouti, the highly respected Palestinian politician, accuses the current Israeli government of intransigence (in an accusation we haven’t seen before, he claims that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room whenever U.S. Envoy George Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem) and the Obama administration of weakness. He carefully advocates continued nonviolent Palestinian protest, while disdaining a settlement freeze that does not explicitly include East Jerusalem. “Eventually,” he concludes, “we will be free in our own country, either within the two-state solution or in a new integrated state.”
On the other side, former Labor Party prime ministerial spokesperson Uri Dromi comes to praise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to bury him, and to ask Israelis to get behind him. The West Bank settlement freeze and the increased proximity of a deal for captured soldier Gilad Shalit are evidence, Dromi argues, of Netanyahu’s successful balancing among a United States anxious for peace, a Likud Party skeptical of Palestinian goodwill, and a demographic reality that will soon see Israel “either lose its Jewish identity or become an apartheid state.”
Evidence suggests that the Palestinians are trying to lay favorable groundwork—see: a full construction freeze, including in East Jerusalem—for new talks. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asserted that peace can happen in six months … if Israel imposes a total construction freeze outside the Green Line. Palestinian and Egyptian negotiators also leaked a maybe-true report that Egypt, France, and the United States have asked Israel for a full five-month freeze; America quickly denied the report. So, in conclusion, East Jerusalem is the most ostentatious stumbling-block. That is, unless you count another issue, one that neither op-ed even slightly engaged with: Hamas-controlled Gaza.
When Will It Be Our Time? [IHT]
Netanyahu’s High-Wire Act [IHT]
Abbas to ‘Haaretz’: Peace Possible in Six Months if Israel Freezes All Settlements
U.S. Official Denies Report of New Settlement Deal [Ben Smith]