By Daniel Chejfec
For several reasons: First, this announcement with the Quartet comes after the US berated Netanyahu in a completely out of proportion reaction to an ill-considered construction announcement for East Jerusalem. Since Israel never made a commitment to halt construction in Jerusalem, from the Israeli perspective this was a non issue; since the US never recognized the expansion of the municipal boundaries of the city, it considers the construction to be on the West Bank and therefore subjected to the promised Israeli ban. But why the completely berserk reaction by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? One would believe (and probably be right) that this was a manufactured crisis to force concessions from the Israeli right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu and also an attempt to go out of the way to prove the Arab world that America is a fair broker.
Second reason I feel bad is because the negotiations set up with America functioning as intermediary set back the Israeli Palestinian relations 17 years, to the time before Oslo. Not only does it go away with direct contact between the parties in conflict, but it is also forcing the inclusion of the most sensitive issues in the agenda, all but guaranteeing that America will have a final word in how the Peace agreement-if it comes- will be shaped, and with an Obama administration with little or no credibility on the Arab street and leaning heavily on Israel, I cannot help but feel uneasy as to who is going to pay the price for Obama's political gambit.
Third reason I feel bad is that the Obama administration appears to have adopted to European view of symmetry at all costs in the conflict, an idea that makes bombardment of Israeli civilians and Israeli building of housing equivalent and links them in a quid-pro-quo. This does nothing other than handing a victory to those who are trying to impose their views through violence and makes the American administration look as if it were genuflecting to Arab terror. This is bad not only for Israel but for America as well.
When I was a kid, if I had a fight with somebody and went to my parents to tell the other kid to stop it, they would tell me that I needed to solve the issue myself by talking to the other kid because they would not always be around to solve the problems for me. Unless a major change in Human relations took place when I was looking the other way, I fail to understand how moving from direct negotiations to indirect negotiations can be hailed as diplomatic progress. Under direct talks, the Palestinians obtained self-rule for the first time in their history; they gained control over growing portions of the territory in the West Bank and Gaza and they were helped in trying to structure their society and their economy. It is true that no final agreement was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but whose fault is it? Palestinians are still mired in a bitter civil war between Hamas and the PLO and therefore unable to make any commitments that would be binding to their people or even their leaders. What can then be the point of forcing negotiations without resolving the civil war but to force Israel to pay the full price of Peace with unilateral concessions?
I believe the Israeli Palestinian conflict can only be solved when the Palestinians gain control of their own lives, but only if that control is not gained at the expense of Jewish self-determination and sovereignty. True Peace must include security and recognized borders for Israel as much as it must include some way for Palestinians to establish their own state. This is a principle that every Israeli Administration this side of Oslo has accepted. By contrast, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are still calling for Israel's destruction and its replacement with a Palestinian Arab State from the Jordan to the Sea. Shouldn't Palestinians take the next step by openly recognizing the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish sovereign State and by eliminating the incitement to Jew-hatred in their school books as well as eliminating the funding of groups perpetrating terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians?
I'm obviously out of touch with reality since I still believe that an agreement means mutual concessions between equals, and not unilateral giveaways...