Hillary Huffs, Arab League Puffs, Abbas Blows The House Down
By: David Singer
It may seem discourteous to Jews and Arabs to refer to their current spat in the same breath as the tale of the three little pigs.
There is rare unanimity between Jews and Arabs when it comes to pigs – both religions forbid the eating of pig or any product derived from pig.
However this common bond has been trashed into pig swill when it comes to Jews and Arabs living within cooee of each other on a postage sized piece of land comprising 5% of historic Palestine with an area approximating the size of Delaware.
The squeals and snorts emanating from the Arab side at the thought of Israel building 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem to accommodate the burgeoning population growth among religious Jewish families averaging 5-6 children continues with ever piercing ferocity. It is almost certain to erupt in a frenzy of demonstrations and stone throwing.
You would think the Arabs were being led to the slaughter and were being pushed out of their existing residences to make way for the Jews. Certainly there have been Court ordered evictions of Arab squatters on Jewish owned properties in East Jerusalem but the 1600 planned units were not slated to be built on the site of those disputed properties.
Israel certainly did commit a huge PR gaffe in announcing its intention to build those 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem for a group of religious Jews who do not even support the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.
To make that announcement was extremely naÃ¯ve and provocative at precisely the time that the Vice President of the United States – Joseph Biden – was visiting Jerusalem – with an entourage that had booked out 200 hotel rooms – to launch the beginning of proximity negotiations to supposedly advance the resolution of competing Arab and Jewish claims to sovereignty in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Arab League – believing it could now renege on giving its blessing to those negotiations commencing – – then promptly committed its own PR gaffe in withdrawing its consent to those proximity talks being held – - just two days after agreeing those talks should go ahead .
The American Vice President however appeared to accept Israelâ€™s apology unreservedly.
There the matter should have ended and the proximity talks begun but for the intervention of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who roundly condemned Israel for spoiling what would have been seen as a triumph of American diplomacy in bringing a recalcitrant Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating pen.
Clintonâ€™s verbal onslaught on Israel encouraged Abbas to believe he could now get America to demand Israel halt all building activity in East Jerusalem before the proximity talks were begun.
America – albeit reluctantly – had accepted Israelâ€™s position almost four months ago that there would be no such halt as a condition to the resumption of any negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas now mistakenly sniffed a new opportunity to wheedle out of the proximity negotiations with an enraged Hillary Clintonâ€™s backing.
The Palestinian Authorityâ€™s chief negotiator – Saeb Erekat – certainly conveyed that impression when making the following statement:
â€œThe PA “welcomes the statements from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Quartet condemning the Israeli government decision to build settlements in the eastern sector of Jerusalemâ€¦
We want these positions to become binding and for Israel to scrap its settlement decisions, especially its plan to build 1600 homes in Jerusalemâ€¦
“We want a total halt… we want to stop this Israeli policy that is useless and destructive for the peace process, especially for the US administration’s honest efforts to relaunch real and serious negotiations.”
Hillary Clintonâ€™s huff however had more to do with something ingrained in Arab culture – the loss of face and the need to regain face as soon as possible.
Abbas already had found himself suffering a distinct loss of face when he agreed to commence proximity negotiations – and only after the Arab League provided him with the face saving cover to do so.
His political opponents – Hamas – and other radical Palestinian Arab groups had ridiculed his decision and denigrated his authority when commenting on Abbas’s decision:
â€œThis decision will have serious repercussions for the Palestinians and their cause,â€ said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip. â€œThis decision will help Israel in ending the state of isolation it has been in because of its war crimes against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.â€
Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, condemned the decision to resume the negotiations as a â€œcrimeâ€ against the Palestinians.
â€œWe consider these negotiations, which will take place in the wake of Israeli escalation against our people and holy sites, a national crime,â€ he said. â€œAnyone who negotiates with the occupation is a criminal against our people.â€
Abbas was feeling decidedly threatened by his own brethren until Israelâ€™s intemperate announcement provided the Arab League and himself with what he thought was an opportunity for another opportunity to miss an opportunity and regain the loss of face he had sustained by bending to American pressure to agree to proximity negotiations in the first place.
Vice President Bidenâ€™s immediate acceptance of Prime Minister Netanyahuâ€™s apology however left the Arab League and Abbas high and dry yet again and subject to even further loss of face if Abbas limply crawled back to the negotiating table in the face of Israelâ€™s provocative announcement to build those 1600 units in East Jerusalem. Hamas would have had a real field day in denouncing Abbas.
Hillaryâ€™s attempt to play piggy in the middle by rapping Israel severely over the knuckles thereby restoring Abbasâ€™s loss of face among his own power base, saving his bacon and enabling him to once again agree to conducting proximity negotiations – had backfired.
Abbas misinterpreted Hillaryâ€™s huff as a signal that America would now pressure Israel to cease all building activity in East Jerusalem before he was required to commence any proximity negotiations.
If Abbas believes that America will insist Israel do that – then pigs might really fly.