The breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations deadlock makes front page news Sunday, with the press filling in some of the details of the deal to get the two sides back to the table after three years.
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday evening that Israel and the Palestinian Authority “reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming negotiations,” but Maariv leads off with a skeptical clause saying “it was only the opening shot in a long and tedious race, full of twists and impediments, of which it’s doubtful the sides will reach the finish line.” According to the paper, Kerry warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas that should he refuse to come to the table, “aid to the PA will be harmed.”
Haaretz packs its front page with the headers of six op-ed pieces about the renewed talks, leaving barely enough room for facts about the development. It notes that Kerry “didn’t say on what terms the peace talks would be based,” nor did he mention the various preconditions to peace talks demanded by either side, namely recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the pre-1967 lines, and the issues of freezing settlement construction and releasing Palestinian prisoners.
The first matter the two sides will discuss is the order of business, it cites an American source as saying. According to Haaretz, the Palestinians want negotiations to lead off with sorting out borders and security arrangements, while the Israelis prefer the core issues — water, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the right of return.
Pro-government daily Israel Hayom is sure to note Kerry’s praise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and Abbas) for courageously taking a step toward talks and reports that “if everything goes as planned, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and [Netanyahu’s] special envoy Yitzhak Molcho will arrive in Washington for discussions ‘within a week.'” The paper quotes a Times of London report which cites two Abbas aides saying that the Kerry’s deal included a written guarantee that talks would be based on the ’67 lines and that new construction would be halted in West Bank settlements, which Jerusalem denied.
Makor Rishon’s top story is that, contrary to that report of a West Bank settlement building freeze ahead of renewed talks, “there will be no building freeze, not even a slowdown,” according to “sources involved in the negotiations.” It also reports that Israel will only release of 80 Palestinian prisoners — “serious murderers,” it calls them — “once the talks take place and are serious,” according to sources.
Yedioth Ahronoth dispenses with placing its reportage on Page 2, pushing it to Page 4, and puts Nahum Barnea’s postulations there instead. He writes that Kerry’s announcement is “undoubtedly an achievement,” but adds that “the way in which Kerry deals with the conflict almost certainly brings about additional failure, and the collapse which will follow it.”
Part of the problem, he argues, is Washington’s involvement, which he claims has historically impeded rather than facilitated Israel’s peace deals. “Washington is a fantastic place to celebrate an agreement; it’s a graveyard for negotiations.”
Despite the oceans of ink spilled in Sunday’s paper analyzing and examining the few details of the imminent return to peace talks, the best indicator of the press’s reception of the news is the political cartoons, which all deal with Kerry’s announcement.
Reflecting its reportage’s aforementioned skepticism about the prospect of peace talks, Maariv’s cartoon shows a morose Netanyahu and Abbas gingerly carrying a very small, fragile-looking object, labeled “window of opportunity.”
Ben-Dror Yemini writes in the paper that even if Livni and Erekat negotiate their way to the arrangement former prime minister Ehud Olmert put on the table five years ago, “does anyone really think that Netanyahu will agree [to it]?”
“Is there a change that Abbas will say yes today to a deal he himself refused five years ago?” he asks. He argues that the time has come for the US, the EU, and the Quartet to put a peace plan on the table and for negotiations over its execution to take place. He says Netanyahu and Abbas fear their respective oppositions more than the international community, and “the two of them are not prepared to pay the necessary price for a deal.”
“You have to believe in miracles in order to think that the renewed process, for the thousand-and-first time, will bring a breakthrough,” he says.
Haaretz shows the two leaders in a rollercoaster car on the edge of a precipice with expressions of trepidation evident on their faces. Kerry, poised to push them over the edge, tells them, “You’re allowed to scream.
The paper’s editorial says that the burden of responsibility is on Israel’s shoulders, and that Netanyahu now has the opportunity to end the occupation. Netanyahu “has no opponents at this time to replace him, and the opposition will support any agreement. Also a significant portion of the public will support Netanyahu if he succeeds in reaching a political accord with the Palestinians.”
Israel Hayom, traditionally hardline right-wing in its analysis, is by far the least enthusiastic about the prospect of renewed talks. Its cartoon shows Kerry setting a bed of nails for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The caption reads “final preparations for the Day of Love,” referring to the upcoming Jewish semi-holiday of Tu B’Av.
Surprisingly, however, much of the commentary featured in the paper is positive. Boaz Bismuth writes that “A final-status agreement is so far away, but the biggest achievement is breaking the stagnation and avoiding the dangerous vacuum.” Yoav Limor says that for Israel, “the road to remaining one of the ‘good guys’ passes through negotiations with the Palestinians, which could have far-reaching results.”
Yedioth Ahronoth’s sketch is the most blasé by far, showing an apron-girded Kerry dusting off a long-neglected table on which stand Israeli and Palestinian flags.