Peace talks are crumbling and the press is trying to examine the crumbs to figure out what exactly is going on. For the time being, the public blame game is the first order of business in most of the papers. But beneath the surface, pessimism reigns and the pundits augur looming disaster.
Washington’s frustration at the impasse makes the front page in Haaretz, which reports that the American government was equally disappointed in both sides for letting the efforts to extend peace talks beyond their April 29 expiration date fail. Officials in Washington sent scathing rebukes to both Jerusalem and Ramallah, saying the responsibility for sorting out this crisis was on the two sides, the paper reports.
Yedioth Ahronoth assigns equal blame to both parties for the collapse of the peace talks. It writes that while the tripartite Pollard-prisoners-peace talks deal was on the verge of being signed, Israel approved construction of hundreds of units in East Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, then the Palestinians announced their signing onto a number of international agreements.
Israel Hayom glosses over the fact that the Israeli government gave the okay to over 700 apartments in Gilo, instead placing the blame squarely on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Of all the quotes from Israeli and Palestinian officials, the first it mentions is from an unnamed political source who accuses Abbas of spiking the talks. “Every time a moment of decision arrives, Abbas flees,” the source is quoted saying.
According to Israel Hayom pundit Yoav Limor, Abbas was forced by senior members of the PLO to take a harder stance against Israel just before the finish line. “It’s because of what the Palestinians identify as ‘the hour of strength’ to extract concessions,” he says, in light of Israel’s concern regarding the possible outcomes of the peace process failing.
What kind of outcomes, you ask? “The immediate concern is of course termination of security [cooperation] with the Palestinians, and as an extension of that, a corresponding rise in violence in the West Bank, and in wider circles — damage to the legitimacy of Israel to the point that will limit its ability to act,” Limor writes.
“At the moment the story is political-diplomatic,” he quotes a senior official saying. “If the negotiations should unfortunately collapse, the consequences will principally be security [-related].”
Haaretz’s editorial asks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now that the talks are on the verge of disintegrating, and “after he threw a spanner in the negotiation works, in the form of the unnecessary demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state”: Where will he be leading Israel now?
American insistence that they have taken the negotiations as far as they can, and that the Israelis and Palestinians must do the rest of the footwork themselves, raises the possibility of the Americans breaking away from the peace process altogether. “A departure by the US from the negotiations will bring an end to a two-state solution, a solution to which Netanyahu committed himself,” the paper says. “Under the current circumstances there is no chance that the two parties will move ahead without American mediation.”
The entire discussion about prisoners is idle chatter, writes Aviad Kleinberg in Yedioth Ahronoth. “The only discussion appropriate to have isn’t taking place. Nominally, there are negotiations taking place in the region to reach an agreement; in practice, as members of the Israeli government clarified repeatedly, it’s a bluff. Nobody’s interested in an agreement (nor are the Palestinians, by the way).”
He says that the relative peace and quiet enjoyed by Israel at the moment — “our situation has never been better” — is only temporary.
“Israel rules over a poor and discontented population that for decades has been denied its human and civil rights and the chance at true national expression,” he warns. “The West’s patience for our settlement industry wanes. It’s cute that Scarlett Johansson isn’t deterred by boycott threats, but many others are, and their numbers are growing.”
“In a single moment the relative tranquility can end. A desperate popular uprising, a flare-up of violence over the border, and in a single blow we’ll be forced to use massive force, to kill and be killed,” he warns.
Most telling about the papers’ bleak outlook on the faltering peace process, perhaps, are the editorial cartoons featured on Thursday. Yedioth Ahronoth shows Abbas standing alongside two household appliances saying: “Wring and dry” — using terms that also translate as “Extort and hanging out to dry.” US Secretary of State John Kerry and Netanyahu are the ones getting put through the wringer.
Haaretz shows a Jewish family at the Passover table celebrating the Seder. Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, it implies, will still in prison come Passover Eve because of the failure of the deal to extent peace talks. “We’re saving this seat for Jonathan,” a woman tells Elijah the Prophet.
Israel Hayom shows Kerry boarding an American jet and a huge gilt frame –an obvious reference to the now imperiled framework agreement — is broken and in the trash.