Twenty years ago, U.S. President George H.W. Bush asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to choose between expanding settlements and securing financial guarantees to help Israel take in new immigrants. . . . Shamir rallied congressional support in his campaign against the administration. He believed that Israel’s friends would bring the president to his knees. But instead of getting everything he wanted, Shamir ended up getting none of it, ending up without guarantees and out of government.Even though he was in the midst of the struggle for his second term in office, Bush refused to abandon the fragile peace process and risk U.S. interests in the Middle East. The president defeated Congress, and Israeli voters defeated the right at the polls. When there is a leader in the White House who is willing to take political risks and makes it clear that there is a cost to trying to have it both ways, Israelis know to distinguish between the good and the bad.
But Obama enabled Netanyahu to return home from Washington without paying any political price for trying to have it both ways.
The PLO Central Committee has already decided to accept the parameters set out by Obama in his latest speeches as the basis for negotiations toward a permanent agreement, demonstrating its commitment that the reconciliation deal with Hamas does not alter its political positions. Abbas made it clear recently that negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines and a three-month freeze in settlement construction would lead the Palestinians to abandon their effort to win support for an independent state at the United Nations in September. He also said: “In my calendar there is no October.”
In other words, if serious negotiations about borders do not begin by September, in October the Palestinians will no longer agree to cooperate with Israel on either political or security matters. There will no longer be a semblance of a peace process even as Palestinian lands are stolen in broad daylight.