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December 9, 2010
NY Times spotlights Palestinian 'despair,' ignores it's self-inflicted
In a Dec. 9 news analysis, Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, takes stock of the Obama administration's self-admitted failure to get Israel and the Palestinians into fruitful, direct negotiations. ("For U.S., Concerns About Day 91 Ended Push for an Israeli 90-Day Freeze -- A White House admission of failure and an accusation to each side." page A6).
While Bronner writes that an accusing finger can be pointed at both Israel and the Palestinian Authority for Team Obama having to go back to the drawing boards, his analysis doesn't deliver any convincing evidence for such a conclusion. The only presumed Israeli misstep Bronner is able to summon is that when direct talks finally began in September, the Israelis "engaged in little substance" -- i.e. the Israelis had an agenda of their own. Surprise, surprise!!
But this hardly matches the blow delivered to U.S. mediating efforts by Mahmoud Abbas. who waited nine months into a 10-month self-imposed Israeli settlement construction freeze before showing up in September at the negotiating table and then leaving a month later. Abbas's foot-dragging stood in clear contrast to Prime Minister Netanyahu's call for both sides to engage promptly in direct talks without any pre-conditions.
Having established a false equivalence between the Palestinians and Israel for undercutting U.S. efforts to get direct negotiations under way, Bronner then redoubles his pro-Palestinian spin in surveying the debris left by Obama's ill-fated strategy of demanding only Israeli concessions -- i.e. a settlement freeze -- as a prelude to direct talks.
"The Palestinian are unhappy with this turn of events," he writes. They are "despairing of the prospects of attaining a negotiated deal" for creation of a Palestinian state.
The clear implication, of course, is that whatever comes next, Palestinian "despair" needs to be eased by more forthcoming U.S. and Israeli gestures.
But what about Israeli "despair" about ever attaining full security and peace? As far as Bronner is concerned, only the Palestinians have a claim on "despair."
And who exactly is responsible for Palestinian "despair"? In Bronner's narrative, the fault lies with Israel -- "Palestinians are highly skeptical of Israeli sincerity," he writes.
Really? Any ground for such skepticism?
What Bronner overlooks is that any "despair" among Palestinians for not having statehood in their grasp is entirely self-inflicted. There is no mention in his analysis that there would be no reason for any Palestinian "despair" today had Yasser Arafat accepted generous Palestinian statehood peace offers by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in 2000 and 2001.
Similarly, Bronner fails to point out that Palestinian "despair" would be needless had Mahmoud Abbas accepted an even more generous peace offer by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as recently as two years ago -- a Palestinian state in all of Gaza, 93 percent of the West Bank, with land swaps to make up the remaining 7 percent, plus a connector between Gaza and the West Bank, plus Palestinian sovereignty over all Arab sections of Jerusalem, plus Israel relinquishing sovereignty over Temple Mount and the Western Wall because all of Jerusalem's holy sites would be under the control of a five-member international trusteeship -- the U.S., Palestine, Israel, Jordan and, yes, Saudi Arabia. How more accommodating can Israel be but to share control of Judaism's most sacred sites with Arab rulers in Amman, Riyadh and Ramallah?
Yet, Olmert's more than generous plan was summarily rejected by Abbas, who never came up with any counter-plan that might be half as tempting to Israel as Olmert's initiative should have been for the Palestinians.
So if "despair" now reigns in Palestinian ranks, shouldn't any "news analysis" make clear how time and time again (remember Arab rejection and Israeli acceptance of the 1947 UN two-state partition plan? ) the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, in Abba Eban's felicitious observation?