Headline Monday: Peres confirms Obama to mediate Netanyahu-Abbas talks.
US President Barack Obama is expected to moderate a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, President Shimon Peres said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.
But, come to find out Wednesday: No meeting agenda between Abbas, Netanyahu
A senior Palestinian official said on Monday that no meeting was decided to be held soon between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu… The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and president Abbas ruled out holding any meeting with Netanyahu or any renewal of the peace talks unless Israeli authorities announce a total freeze of settlement activities in the West Bank.
When the news came out Monday that Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to meet with Mahmoud Abbas under Barack Obama’s auspices next month, it made a few people unhappy.
Not that these people don’t want peace, nor especially that Mr. Netanyahu isn’t continually reaching out to both the US and the PA. But consistent with those efforts, he has been doing a good job of maintaining a position of strength, while Mr. Abbas rejects each new overture from Israel, always demanding just a little more than what is being offered to him, and all the while Mr. Obama is trying less and less successfully to keep his balance in all this. Besides being much too busy at home. And then there’s poor Mr. Mitchell; he is actually a skilled diplomat and negotiator, but he can’t fire his own boss.
If you’ve been following these things, you may realize that ‘Bama wants so badly to pull a Carter or maybe at least a Clinton. Not that I’m an admirer of either of those two. God forbid! But like it or not, they were achievers to whatever extent, and poor Barry would like to be, but just isn’t. (As an aside at this point, Clarice Feldman over at American Thinker has done a wonderful job of analyzing just how smart Barack Obama is. Seriously.)
Enter Shimon Peres. Now I’m not really as knowledgeable about Israeli politics as y’all think I am, but it has been my understanding that the office of the President of Israel is more ceremonial than substantial, and that he is actually prohibited from political intervention or even expressing potentially divisive personal views on major issues. So how come he gets to make a major news announcement that Obama is going to supervise a get together for Netanyahu and Abbas next month? Well, simply put, he doesn’t. Not to mention that Mr. Peres’ politics have been somewhat to the left of the present government, and of a few others.
And so I told someone last night that, not to worry, Bibi is not betraying anybody or jumping into bed with the baddies any time soon. He is making forward progress; he’s just smart enough to do it at a pace of his own choosing. Israel could do worse.
Addendum: since these two items were published, there has been a late development. It was disclosed today that, yes indeed, talks have begun at a higher level than they have been up until now. And I also noticed two important points. For one thing, the discussion today was along the lines which have been proposed by Netanyahu all along, of first focusing on bringing increased economic benefits to the PA ruled areas. Secondly, and not to be downplayed, is the report that the PA is at the moment having enough sense to back down from its refusal to talk until Israel has met all of its demands.
Or, in the words of the Israeli representative, Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom,
“I’m glad that the Palestinians understand that boycotting talks with the Israeli government was harmful primarily to them,” he said. “As I’ve said, our goal is economic peace, and that does not impede political dialogue, but rather helps it along.”
Hardly anything is ever a done deal in life, and all the less so in the Middle East. But I have a better feeling about today’s meeting than I have had about some others. We’ll see. Sometimes it’s much easier just being a lineman.