A few thoughts from David Gardner, the Financial Times’ International Affairs and Senior Associate Member of St Antony’s College Oxford:
Washington’s attempts to shepherd Israelis and Palestinians into a so-called framework deal – yet another road map towards ending their conflict – appear to be running out of road.
The new roadblock
Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited. To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners.
The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis.
In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued. See comment on Saeb Erakat (below left)
To get Mr Netanyahu to (release the prisoners) now, it seems Washington is prepared to release Jonathan Pollard, jailed for life for selling US military secrets to its Israeli ally, a case Mr Netanyahu has championed.
This kind of reaction – and it is reactive – fits a pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains.
In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.
Gardner then described Washington as behaving more like a crooked lawyer than an honest broker, bullying the weaker Palestinian party into keeping talks going while Israel continues to settle illegally occupied territory, adding “The Israeli tail is being allowed to wag the US dog”. He concludes:
Unless the US is prepared to push for a real compromise, and a real state of Palestine, Israel’s future could be bleak. Mr Kerry himself, but also Israeli and European leaders, have warned that failure will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy, opening the door to an international boycott movement that is already gathering force – a much greater threat to Israel than the Palestinians could ever muster.