Keeping the peace
Hebrew Media Review

Keeping the peace

The Hebrew papers wonder whether the negotiations are truly over, and hold out for the resumption of talks

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, signs a request to join 15 United Nations-linked and other international treaties at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Standing next to him is Saeb Erekat. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, signs a request to join 15 United Nations-linked and other international treaties at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Standing next to him is Saeb Erekat. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

With peace negotiations on the verge of collapse — following Israel’s terminated prisoner release Thursday, the Palestinian bid to join 15 international organizations, and a 9-hour marathon session between negotiators that failed to yield any developments — the Israeli press doggedly plays up the “will they/won’t they” political tension in Friday’s papers.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with the headline “Crisis or Explosion?” and describes the cancellation of the prisoner release as “a new low” in the peace talks. The decision to scrap the inmates’ release was one of a few retaliatory options weighed by the government, the paper writes, citing an unnamed political source; other options included the introduction of large-scale settlement construction.

However, after consideration, the consensus was reached that any dramatic rulings would simply play into the Palestinians’ hands. And, therefore, nixing the prisoner release was ultimately deemed the most effective measure.

“Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] spat in our face,” the official told the paper. “Should we say it’s rain?

“We don’t need to treat them with kid gloves when they blow up the deal an hour before we approve the prisoner release. Our goal now is to stop it all — to toughen our stance and to start from the beginning,” he said.

The paper also features a report claiming that Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett is assembling a legal case against the Palestinian Authority, accusing them of war crimes, in the event the PA takes Israel to international courts.

The legal basis is allegations of incitement to violence, and of involvement in rocket fire against Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip. While the PA would likely pin the latter on Hamas, Bennett claims that since thousands in the coastal enclave receive funding from the PA, the area is effectively under its governance.

“I hear Abu Mazen saying that if there is no prisoner release, he’ll go to The Hague,” Bennett said. “So I tell him: Go ahead, there will be lawsuits waiting for you there.”

Haaretz is the only paper not to lead with the crumbling peace negotiations, tucking it away on pages 3 and 4. The daily reports that Israel has begun leveling sanctions against the PA, most recently in preventing a Palestinian cellular company from entering the Gaza Strip to begin installations. In addition, Israel is set to limit Palestinian control in Area C in the West Bank.

Other measures that are being considered — but have not yet been approved — include freezing the transfer of tax monies to the PA; and demanding the PA cover its debt to the Israel Electric Company, which presently stands at hundreds of millions of shekels.

The paper’s Yossi Verter waxes poetic with a long-winded medical metaphor about the events this past week, comparing the peace process to “a terminally ill hospice patient.”

“Sedated, on a respirator, emitting an occasional grunt, or a momentary spasm. On its body, numerous scars from previous emergency surgeries. On its chest, blue marks, a painful testament to resuscitation after resuscitation after resuscitation.”

And at the heart of this, “even the chief doctor, Tzipi Livni, has lost hope,” he writes, although she won’t admit it. The termination of the peace talks would also usher in the end of Livni’s political standing, he argues. “Her presence in the government will become unnecessary, even pathetic. The negotiations were her oxygen tube.”

Israel Hayom features a wrap of the last-ditch efforts in the past few days to restore the negotiations, highlighting the remarks of Secretary of State John Kerry, Livni, and various Israeli officials. 

According to the paper, both the Arab League and Hamas have voiced their support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s appeal to UN-affiliated organizations.

Hamas praised Abbas, saying: “It’s a good thing Abu Mazen did in turning to international organizations.”

Signing on to the international organizations is “the Palestinian Authority’s natural right,” claimed Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi.

“What stands behind the refusal to release prisoners in the fourth round is Israel’s desire to torpedo negotiations and stall for time,” he added.

In an op-ed for the paper, Dan Margalit predicts that, despite the current outlook, the deadline of the peace talks will nevertheless be extended.

“I would not write this if a permanent agreement were at stake, since then it is likely that Abu Mazen would bolt from signing, just as he encouraged Yasser Arafat to withdraw from Camp David in 2000, and just as he refused Ehud Olmert’s far-reaching proposal. But this is simply an interim stage to continue dialogue, at a price that the two sides can, with little effort, meet.”

Haaretz leads with an exclusive report that some Eritrean and Sudanese migrants, who willfully chose to leave Israel, have been sent to Rwanda and Uganda, and linger there without passports or access to immigration offices.

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