Saeb Erekat Looks for Excuses Not to Negotiate with Israel

Feb. 14 2018

In an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, the longtime PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat declared the U.S. ineligible to broker talks between Israel and the Palestinians given, among other sins, its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Noting Erekat’s two-decade history of prevarication—including his absurd and libelous claims of a “massacre” in Jenin in 2002—Elliott Abrams explains why Erekat cannot be taken seriously. The column, writes Abrams, is in fact about something else entirely:

Erekat returns in the Times to the usual, and sad, Palestinian victimhood trope, criticizing President Trump for failing to recognize “the painful compromises the Palestinians have made for peace, including recognizing Israel and trying to build a state on just 22 percent of the land in the historic Palestine of 1948.” It is striking to call those “compromises”: the first requires Palestinians to do no more than recognize reality, and the second to make their best efforts on behalf of their people. Trying to build a state that can live in peace and engage in economic and social development would not normally be called a huge sacrifice.

Erekat’s message in the Times is that peace efforts must now be multinational, with the United States joined as equal partners by the European Union, Russia, India, Japan, South Africa, and China. PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will soon address the UN Security Council on this point. Good luck with that. There is zero chance that such a group could be formed or could possibly do anything to promote a peace agreement. This is not a serious proposal for moving toward peace but a fantasy designed to forestall any real pressure on the PLO for compromises it does not wish to make. . . .

Erekat concludes by writing that “we are planning to move toward national elections in which all Palestinians, including our diaspora, can take part, with the goals of better representation, more support for our refugees, and strengthening our people’s steadfastness under occupation.” But Abbas has refused to hold elections in the area he controls, the West Bank, since 2006, despite repeated promises to do so. Note that his “national elections” will include the diaspora. This suggests that the “national elections” will not be Palestinian Authority presidential and parliamentary elections that could threaten Abbas’s hold on power. . . .

At bottom, Erekat’s tantrum in the Times is a set of excuses for avoiding serious negotiations. In fact Abbas has done this for nine years now: not once during the Obama years or the first year of the Trump administration have the Palestinians been willing to sit down with the Israelis for serious talks. [Only] the excuses vary.

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More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America