Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Gaurdian/ Netanyahu insists he is ready to talk peace, The Palestinians only chance: Test me!

From The Guardian:
"...Just yesterday Netanyahu said at a lunch for European ambassadors, "Test me." I'm told the Americans have been saying the same thing to Abbas and his team: you'll be surprised how far Bibi is prepared to go.

This "Sharon" view of Netanyahu notes his belated endorsement of the two-state solution. Belated, yes; begrudging, most certainly; but it still came at a political cost, antagonising his rightwing base. They make similar noises about the settlement moratorium: for all its limitations, Hillary Clinton was right to say that it was "unprecedented". No Israeli leader had done anything like it before. For those who doubt its reality, talk to the Palestinian construction workers who, in a bitter paradox, are angry that they can no longer get work building homes for Jewish settlers. As for that Herzliya speech, other observers spotted that when Bibi listed those places that constituted Israel's true "heritage", he named none in occupied territory.

But surely the fact that late last year Israel announced further building in East Jerusalem undermines any claim that Netanyahu is serious about peace? Not so, say his defenders. It merely showed that Bibi is now drawing a distinction between those lands he intends to keep and those he is ready to give up, an implicit end to the dream of Greater Israel, in which Israel would keep the lot.

The PM's allies say that in person he is a different man from the brash, wheeler-dealer of his first, 1990s term. They describe a thoughtful person, always reading, determined to do more than merely keep "the seat warm". They say he now wants to do what eluded his predecessors and come to an agreement.

It all sounds wonderful. The trouble is, as even his advocates confess, there is only the slimmest evidence for it: lots of warm words, very few concrete deeds. Which leaves the Palestinians with a choice. They can heed Mitchell when he says "Trust me" – and turn up at the proximity talks, waiting to hear what Bibi comes up with. Or, better, they can take Netanyahu at his word when he says "Test me" – and do more than wait. They should devise a strategy that will push the Israeli prime minister, forcing him to make good on all the talk. It will mean taking him by surprise with a move that requires a serious response. But do it: call his bluff.

One Palestinian insider says they are about to enter "a grey zone", full of uncertainty. But the alternative is no talks at all. And, even after 17 years of frustration, that would be a disaster.