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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy