Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bibi Didn't Blink This Time

Bibi-bashing being the order of the day, it's also fair to point out, as Israel and her friends have been doing all along, that when the Israelis bowed to U.S. pressure earlier in the year and agreed to a temporary freeze of West Bank settlements, the Palestinians waited nine months before agreeing to direct talks. In retrospect, those were wasted months; and the blame for that goes in the Palestinians' column.

Now, as the Obama administration seeks to recommence indirect talks with no preconditions and all issues on the table, the New York Times Jerusalem correspondent sees some hope:

Israeli officials indicated that with a settlement freeze off the table, they could be more forthcoming on other issues, including changes in their occupation on the ground in the West Bank. A new Palestinian city waiting to be built needs Israeli agreement for a key access road, and that will probably now come, they said; more roadblocks and checkpoints can be removed and more responsibility handed over to Palestinian security forces.

Of course, these steps have been promised several times in the past, and Palestinians are highly skeptical of Israeli sincerity.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s aides say it will be easier to get such steps through his cabinet and security establishment if the threat of talks ending is removed. Because in the coming weeks there will be no direct talks, just indirect ones through American officials, the threat is gone for now.

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