As Prime Minister Netanyahu meets today with President Mahmoud Abbas in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, one of Israel’s newspapers carries the headline “Summit without Expectations”.
In its report about the summit this morning, Sky News shows its reporter standing in front of some newly erected apartments in Ma’aleh Adumim with the clear message that, should the talks fail, it will be because of Israel’s unpreparedness to halt building in the occupied territories. Indeed, Abbas has made it clear that he will leave the talks, if the current freeze on construction does not continue.
By contrast, Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians accept the notion of two states for two peoples merits scant attention. Perhaps one of the reasons is because it is not generally understood why it should be so important for Israel that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish State.
Many Israelis fear that the Palestinians will try to use the “right of return” as a way of swamping Israel with the descendents of those who became refugees in 1948. Were that to happen, it would spell the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has repeatedly indicated that this summit may well be the last opportunity to reach a peace agreement. It is important that the Palestinians not be allowed to use the issue of construction as an excuse to back away from talks, and thereby avoid addressing the key issues that need to be resolved.
It is to be hoped that Prime Minister Netanyahu will find a way of avoiding that trap, so as to ensure that, should the talks fail, the blame will not be laid at Israel’s door.