Or is it?
That is really the most relevant -- indeed the only relevant -- question at this moment.
He will need a lot to achieve his heart's desire: the meeting -- not just the meeting, but The Meeting -- between Netanyahu and Abbas.
That looks like an easy task. Netanyahu declares, with his usual sincerity, that he wants to meet. Nay, that he is eager to meet. With the polished charm of a seasoned TV presenter familiar with the power of visual images, he even offered to put up a tent halfway between Jerusalem and Ramallah (at the infamous Qalandia checkpoint?) and sit down with Abbas and Kerry until a full agreement on all aspects of the conflict is achieved.
Who could resist such a generous offer? Why the hell does Abbas not jump at it and grasp it with with both hands?
For a very simple reason.
The very start of new negotiations would be a political triumph for Netanyahu. Actually, it's all he really wants -- the ceremony, the bombast, the leaders shaking hands, the smiles, the speeches full of goodwill and talk of peace.
And then? Then nothing. Negotiations that go on endlessly, months, years, decades. We have seen it all before. Yitzhak Shamir, one of Netanyahu's predecessors, famously boasted that he would have dragged out the negotiations forever.
The profit for Netanyahu would be clear and immediate. He would be seen as the Man of Peace. The present government, the most rightist and nationalist Israel has ever known, would be rehabilitated. The people around the world who preach a boycott of Israel in all spheres would be shamed and disarmed. The growing alarm in Jerusalem about the "de-legitimization" and "isolation" of Israel would be relieved.
What would the Palestinian side get out of it? Nothing. No stop to the settlements. Not even the release of old prisoners who have been incarcerated for more than 20 years (like those who were released to Hamas in return for Gilad Shalit). Sorry, no "preconditions"!
Abbas demands that the aim of the negotiations be spelled out in advance: the establishment of the State of Palestine with borders "based on" the pre-1967 lines. The omission of this statement from the Oslo accords of 1993 led to their eventual evaporation. Why make the same mistake twice?
Also, Abbas wants to set a time limit for the negotiations. A year or so.
Netanyahu, of course, refuses all of this. At the moment, poor Kerry is trying to put something together that would satisfy the wolf while keeping the lamb alive. Give Abbas American assurances without Israeli assurances, for example.
IN ALL this bickering, one basic fact is ignored.
It's that elephant again. The elephant in the room, whose existence Netanyahu denies and which Kerry is trying to ignore.
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