Like lovers spurned who just can’t accept reality, the less-than-amorous triangle of Israel, the Palestinians and the US gives it yet another go on the front pages of the Hebrew media Sunday.
This comes after a spectacular blowup last week that saw the Palestinians relegated to sleeping on the couch, the Israelis weeping on the bed while watching “Grey’s Anatomy” reruns and eating tub after tub of Ben & Jerry’s and the Americans threatening to take the kids to their parents’ place in Arlington if they don’t get their act together (to take the metaphor well past its logical conclusion).
While Yedioth Ahronoth calls the attempt to re-rail the peace talks a “last-chance effort,” Israel Hayom goes with the more realistic “another attempt.” Dark and gloomy Haaretz, meanwhile, graces its front page with a headline reporting that the US is already packing its bags and getting ready to relegate the talks to the trash bin of history.
According to the paper, it is White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice leading the call to blow this popsicle stand, said popsicle stand being the Middle East peace process. “Senior Israeli and American officials say that Rice believes the United States should reduce its involvement in light of a lack of willingness on the part of the Israelis and Palestinians to make the tough decisions. Rice is one of several White House officials who believe Obama needs to consider stepping back from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” the paper reports.
Barak Ravid, who does double duty as a news reporter and prognosticator, goes out on a limb and guesses that once this peace process falls apart, US President Barack Obama will not try to start another series of talks right away, but instead adopt a policy of “benign neglect,” which Ravid borrows from colleague Peter Beinart. “Kerry, special envoy Martin Indyk and senior officials in Israel would be glad to see the Americans make one last effort to present their own peace plan. But no one in Obama’s inner circle has the appetite for it. As things look now, it is much more likely that Obama will shut down Kerry’s efforts than direct him to invest more efforts in it. If the United States comes back to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire and tries to present a new peace plan, it will not be for the next few months.”
Israel Hayom takes the opposite view, positing that attempts by all three parties to get the talks back on track show that “Kerry does not intend to give up.” The paper quotes State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf’s optimistic assessment from Friday night as part of its argument that everything is hunky dory, essentially ignoring the time between then and Saturday night.
“The pessimistic statements from Washington changed last night, and despite the difficult atmosphere the Americans clarified that they have no intention of stepping back. On Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry and agreed that they will continue trying to return to the original deal. ‘We are still at the negotiating table,’ Harf said. ‘The parties have said they want to continue. We are focused on continuing.’”
The paper gives Economy Minister Naftali Bennett page 4 real estate to play Ike Turner to the Palestinians’ Tina and promise to give them something to cry about. Bennett writes that if the Palestinians want to join the UN so badly, they should be allowed to, but they should understand Israel can give them a black eye for international crimes in The Hague just as easily as they can try to batter Israel. “The time has come to change the concept. This is not a doomsday weapon, but an empty revolver. There is a reason the Palestinians are not members in The Hague nor in the UN. The time has come to understand what we are talking about. To stop being scared and to act,” he writes.
Fun side note: The paper can’t let itself go without getting in a swipe at Bennett, who struck out at them and owner Sheldon Adelson last week, sticking in a little note at the end of his column noting that even though Bennett called Israel Hayom “Pravda” they give voices to everybody.
So Russia Today, then?
Yedioth highlights the sanctions Israel plans on imposing on the PA once the talks fall apart, which will largely affect cellphone users who just want to get their Candy Crush on. The measures include preventing the Palestinian cellphone network from expanding to Gaza, canceling the arrangement that allowed for 3G service in the West Bank, canceling building permits in Area C, stopping an international program to turn 14,000 dunams in Area C to tillable farmland, and cutting off ministerial contacts between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The paper’s Alex Fishman notes that the sanctions being floated are only a warning flare, as they don’t include much more serious measures.
“For now, the punishment is still minimal, and only at the level of signaling. The decision by Israel to stop the cell company Wataniya from putting in infrastructure in Gaza, should talks fail, is mostly meant to show: look how much you depend on us,” he writes. “Officially, the door is still not locked. There are attempts to keep the talks alive and meetings are continuing, but practically, we are in the same situation as nine months ago: with no diplomatic dialogue, but with a daily dialogue for security cooperation, particularly with the Shin Bet, the Central Command and cooperation on operations in the territories. As of now, even after the talks blew up, security communication is being kept between Israel and the Palestinians via telephone, and the money that is meant to strengthen them is continuing to go to the Palestinian Authority – from an understanding by both sides that they are uninterested in devolving into violence.”