Ben Levitas
Ben Levitas

Yet again Palestinian leaders miss an opportunity

Immediately after being asked by President Shimon Peres to form a new coalition Benjamin Netanyahu stated that renewing talks with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would be a top priority for his new government.

“The next government that I will form will be committed to peace. I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to return to the negotiating table. Every day that passes without us talking to jointly find a way to create peace for our peoples is a day wasted.”

Also supporting a new peace initiative the new US secretary of state, John Kerry, pressured Netanyahu to return to the negotiating table and make concessions to the Palestinians. It was reported in Israel Today that “the very day after Kerry phoned Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian officials began listing preconditions for even meeting with the Israelis”.

“Among those preconditions: The immediate release of all jailed Palestinians, most of whom have either tried or succeeded in killing Jews, and a full halt to the building of homes for Jews in areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority, including the eastern half of Jerusalem.”

”Both are red lines no Israeli government could cross.”

Yet again the Palestinian leadership has missed out on yet another opportunity to put the new Israeli leadership to the test.

In November 2009 Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, bowed to US pressure to announce that no new Jewish homes or settlements would be built in the West Bank for the next 10 months. It was hoped that by acceding to this intractable demand of the Palestinian leadership, peace negotiations could be jump-started.

Subsequently several events interceded that hindered direct talks from occurring. On May 31 2010 Israel carried out the Gaza flotilla raid that Abbas labelled “a massacre” and he proceeded to declare a three-day mourning period.

Abbas proceeded to announce to the Arab League on July 8 2010 that the Palestinian Authority would abandon peace talks and attack Israel if the Arab states would invade stating “if you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favour. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it” — rather ironic, for a leader known to have renounced violence as a form of resistance.

In August 2010 Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stated rather optimistically, as so many leaders had said before, that a Palestinian state was possible to achieve within one year.

The Obama administration launched a renewed effort to negotiate peace by attempting to get the parties involved to agree to direct talks for the first time in a long while. With the support for direct talks from Egypt and Jordan, they managed to persuade the Palestinian leadership after much coaxing to accept Israel’s settlement freeze and enter direct talks. The fact that this process took nine months after the start of the freeze, to the Israeli leadership was proof that the real intention of the Palestinian leaders all along was to procrastinate in order to extend the freeze. The aim of the talks was to forge the framework of a final agreement within one year for a two-state solution, although general expectations of a success were low.

It took until September 2, after 10 months and seven rounds of indirect talks for US-brokered direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to commence in Washington DC. This was followed up with a second round of peace talks on September 14 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Abbas stated that during the talks, the two parties agreed to the principle of land swaps, with Israel exchanging small parts of its own territory in exchange for settlement blocs.

In early September, to disrupt the direct negotiations a coalition of 13 Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas and Hezbollah began a campaign of attacks against Israeli civilians including two pregnant women and a series of drive-by shootings and rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns.

After all these provocations direct talks broke down in late September 2010. Netanyahu refused to extend the freeze unless the Palestinian Authority recognized Israel as a Jewish state while the Palestinian leadership refused to continue negotiating unless Israel extended the moratorium.

The refusal by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on September 21 2010 to take part in a joint press conference with Peres, led Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to comment “what I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about” and that “if the Palestinians think that they can create one Palestinian state and one dual-nationality state, this will not happen”.

Despite the US pushing Israel to extend the settlement freeze, Israel chose not to, in the face of withering criticism from European countries and the US. Netanyahu called for ”restraint” from the settlers and has adhered ever since to a policy of not allowing any new settlements to be built, except in Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capitol and has annexed.

As a further confidence-building gesture and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, Israel released 1 027 Palestinian prisoners in December 2011. This gesture failed to produce any desired results and the Palestinian leadership continued to find excuses for refusing to start peace talks or display any flexibility in their insistence that Israel cease with settlement expansion.

The recent United Nations Human Rights Council decision to condemn Israel for its settlements policies and demanding that all Israeli settlers be uplifted and that Israel returns to its 1967 borders, unfortunately makes it unnecessary for the Palestinian leadership to compromise and is inimical to fostering the need for peace talks. The widespread support for the United Nations position, by the overwhelming number of its members, merely emboldens the Palestinians to maintain their intransigence. As the UN has acceded to all the Palestinian demands there is simply no need or benefit to come to the negotiating table, where there is likely to be pressure to compromise.

Only when Abbas and his regime are prepared to negotiate without preconditions, which are in effect excuses for refusing to negotiate, can Israel have a partner for peace. Until such time Abbas must be held responsible and be made accountable for scuttling all opportunities for peace talks over the past four years.

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  • 16 Responses to “Yet again Palestinian leaders miss an opportunity”

    1. The World According to Ben #

      “Despite the US pushing Israel to extend the settlement freeze, Israel chose not to, ……………… Netanyahu called for ”restraint” from the settlers and has adhered ever since to a policy of not allowing any new settlements to be built, except in Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capitol and has annexed.”

      * And the Palestinians missed an opportunity, what opportunity Ben?

      “The recent United Nations Human Rights Council decision to condemn Israel for its settlements policies and demanding that all Israeli settlers be uplifted and that Israel returns to its 1967 borders,”


      “Only when Abbas and his regime are prepared to negotiate without preconditions, …”


      February 7, 2013 at 8:07 pm
    2. Michael Liermann #

      Chairperson of SA Zionist federation writes opinion piece lambasting Palestinians, lauding Israeli government. Film at 11.

      February 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm
    3. Rich Brauer #

      “…settlements to be built, except in Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capitol and has annexed.”

      Which annexation has been declared null and void by multiple Security Council resolutions.

      So, if you want to talk about preconditions, there’s a good place. Indeed, probably the only place.

      February 7, 2013 at 11:39 pm
    4. #

      Israel has been stealing Palestine bit by bit since its formation…and putting 1000’s of kids in prison for standing up for themselves and their families…and you wonder why they do not want to negotiate? Negotiate about what? How big the piece of land will be that Israel steals next? How many people should die next from the bunker-busting bombs, white-phosphorous that you throw down on them from above? Sniping 6 year old boys for target practice? Shooting a little boy in the back whilst playing on a soccer field?
      ooohhh…but they shoot rockets at us…I’d hear you say…
      It’s like the school bully running to the teacher complaining when the little guy fights back…
      We have seen with our own eyes what you have done and still doing in Gaza and the West bank…you make us sick! God have mercy on your souls

      February 8, 2013 at 10:04 am
    5. Tess Fairweather #

      A straight question:
      Why does Israel insist on building settlements in contested areas? Is there no other vacant land available in the whole of Israel?

      One comment on Ben’s article:
      Why do Israeli leaders and journalists press the “Killing Jews” button at every opportunity? Would it not be more accurate and less emotive to refer to “Israelis” killed. This war is not about religious persecution, it is about territory and power. The Holocaust is over. Not forgotten, just in the past.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm
    6. swahombe #

      This impase, like all others, will be resolved one day, ask “white” south africa, and I can assure you, it does not matter how long it takes….palestine will have its land

      February 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm
    7. Paul S #

      Here’s another straight question : Why bother ? It’s clear that for decades now neither camp has any real will to resolve the fundamental issues that dog the region. If neither group is prepared to budge then perhaps its time to declare a stalemate and move on. The entire planet is sick and tired of the constant bad news and negativity. In much the same way as the world is tiring of SA opportunists constantly playing the race card to prop up the old apartheid stereotype for personal benefit.

      February 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm
    8. Mark_DE #

      “The next government that I will form will be committed to peace. I call on Abu Mazen (Abbas) to return to the negotiating table. Every day that passes without us talking to jointly find a way to create peace for our peoples is a day wasted.”

      I don’t know how to characterize this. Hypocritical would be an understatement.

      There is no land left to establish a Palestinian state on. Period.

      February 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm
    9. To all the pro Hamas PLO supporters.When you guys get your facts right & study history,you will find that there are no peace agreements with the arab nations except Egypt & Jordan,the latter being a lackey of the west.In all wars there is an armistice,followed by a peace agreement.As Israel & the supporters of Hamas.PLO have never had a formal armisice or peace agreement,there is no such thing as occupied land.Until a PEACE AGREEMENT is signed by Hamas & PLO leadership,then & only then can land be apportioned to both sides.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:49 am
    10. bernpm #

      I said in a previous comment: “The permanent stalemate between Israel, supported by the US, and Palestinians reflects on the global attitude towards the Jews.
      The same is happening towards the Muslims.
      While people know that not all of these people support the fundamentalist or hostile attitudes of their fundamentalist brothers, the general feeling has become one of unease with all Muslims and all Jews.”

      The Israelis (=Jews for many) were plonked in the middle of the middle East in 1948. their neighbors were not asked too many questions. The US has been supporting them extensively in their “expansionist” behavior, mostly for their own good (middle East influence). The US is still building on the Iran case and one day will do another Irak on Iran. They need Israel for that. Hence, Israel cannot befriend its neighbours!!

      February 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm
    11. Joe Nkosi #

      Ben the Zionist has crawled out of the woodwork again trying to justify pure evil. I will wait till Ben the human sees the light.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:15 am
    12. Truth be known #

      @jack shnaiert

      “there is no such thing as occupied land”

      The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

      Don’t know if you have ever seen this? Well worth reading. :-)

      February 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm
    13. Chopper4 #

      @truth be told….that source you bring just does not make sense really. It says “And all subsequent crimes — ON BOTH SIDES— inevitably follow from this original injustice.”

      It states that there were crimes from both sides yet the crimes of the so called Palestinians are irrelevant, that makes no sense. The blame is squarely put on the Jews. The source brings cherry picked facts. On top of it your source tries to connect extinct ancient civilisations to migrant workers. You do know that most of the Arabs there were the slaves of the Ottoman absent land owners.

      However it also states that their was once sovereign Kingdom of Israel that lasted say 400 years until it was conquered by the Romans. Then the land got conquered throughout the ages until the Allied forces conquered it from the Ottomans. Yet that land was not sovereign. For if it were then it would be the obligation of the Trustee to return the land to those who it was stolen from. Yet from history the only Sovereign country that existed was Israel. Therefore when occupation existed it was a Jewish country that GOT occupied and therefore according to history the land should have been returned to its rightful owners…The Kingdom of Israel…yet somehow we are meant to believe that Palestinians are Canaanites? “Palestinians” are mainly Muslim therefore they stem from 1400 years ago meanwhile the Jews are over 3 times older than that…and you are trying to tell me that the Palestinians were around before…

      February 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm
    14. Chopper4 #

      @Tess Fairweather … Are you of the opinion that anyone can live where ever they want except Israelis? Do you understand the discrimination attached to that statement?

      I would not call you an anti-Semite, however that opinion borders it and I would rather claim that you are naive.

      Tess, the Jews have always been the scapegoat of the world. Israel is just the Jew amongst the nations.

      Here is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “When People criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. They are talking Anti-Semitism.”

      People when referring to Israel they mean Jews. Period.

      Anyone wants to read a good article…,7340,L-4343807,00.html

      February 13, 2013 at 12:23 pm
    15. Alan #


      Nazi holocaust survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer says that Zionism is seeking to dehumanize the Palestinians in the same way the Nazis sought to dehumanize him in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
      “Zionism is to modern enlightened Judaism what Nazism was to Germany’s traditional ethical values.” (One of Hajo’s most important books is titled An Ethical Tradition Betrayed, The End of Judaism).

      February 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm
    16. Chopper4 #


      If you look hard enough for something to be comparable to something else, you will always find it. Then you will concentrate on it and then manipulate it to suit your agenda.

      Here is a guy that unfortunately is not a survivor but a self imposed victim and this victim mentality has caused him to look at a distorted picture. Zionism is patriotism in its simplistic form.

      Patriotism is discriminatory anywhere you go. However people see it as discrimination because they do not belong to that “in group” of people. Palestinians are not Israeli. 4% of Palestinian population is under Israeli Military rule 96% are under Palestinian rule. So how can it be that all Palestinians are being dehumanised? BTW if Zionism was out to eradicate the Middle East of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs then how come after 60 plus years Israel has not done it? Do you really think Israel loves spending 80% of its annual budget on defense?

      Instead of regurgitating what some bitter person said, think for yourself…and use facts! Judaism survived worse people than Hajo Meyer. He is knocking on heaven’s door anyway and Judaism will survive his bitterness!

      February 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm

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