Time After Time

Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO of the St. Louis Jewish Light

Larry Levin

Right now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying that it’s not time for direct talks between his side and Israel.

Say what?

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That’s right. Abbas won’t proceed until he receives assurances about borders and security.

So ok, when are the indirect so-called proximity talks, the ones being brokered by the United States, supposed to come to an end? September.

And when are the temporary limits on settlement development in the West Bank being lifted? September.

Hmmm. So the plot thickens. Actually, the plot is pretty darn transparent. While the US and Israel push on the Palestinian side to talk directly, stalling tactics take us to September. Then when the settlement ban in behind them, the PA can once again say, those bad Israelis, they’re building again, we told you so.

How utterly convenient.

Look, I’m not a major settlement fan. I understand, at least intellectually, their religious significance and the opportunity for cheaper housing than building in pricey Jerusalem.  I also understand the need to have security for those already built. But I don’t find as sincere a strategy that seems acceptable to some Israelis, that entails getting as many settlements and homes constructed so that when there’s peace there’s less to give up. For one thing, it’s disingenuous and for another, the strategy itself makes peace less likely.

But by the same token, I don’t at all condone the stall by the PA. It’s perhaps even more disingenuous. The US has bent over backward to acknowledge support for the plight of Palestinians. There is not going to be another US administration that’s going to be any more earnest in its effort to get a deal done. To stall at this point is to say you don’t want peace, for whatever reason.

All I’m saying is, either you believe peace is possible and desirable, or you don’t. If you don’t, man up and say so, and just walk away from the table for good. If you do, understand that you’re going to have to give something to get something. And at this point, that something you’re giving up is sitting down at the table without preconditions, and doing the hard work of slogging through a painful negotiation.

It’s the only path. Use it or lose it.