Thursday, March 11, 2010

After VP Biden Leaves, the Facts Remain the Same

Vice President Biden is in the Middle East to try and resuscitate a peace process that lacks partners in peace. The Palestinians continue to refuse to accept Israel's existence, and Hamas' backer Iran is still calling for Israel's annihilation.

Biden, and the rest of the diplomatic corps, refuses to recognize that until Israel has a determined partner in peace that is willing to recognize a two-state solution, Israel will continue doing as it has done - survive and thrive despite the ongoing existential threat on its borders and from those nations within missile range.

The Vice President also puts the onus on Israel to stop building more housing, despite the fact that housing (or settlements as the diplomats and media are fond of calling them) is, was, and never has been an impediment to peace.
Israel's announcement this week, during Biden's visit, of plans to build 1,600 settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank it annexed to Jerusalem, cast a shadow over U.S. efforts to relaunch Middle East peacemaking.

"The most important thing is for these talks to go forward and go forward promptly and go forward in good faith," Biden said in a speech at Tel Aviv University. "We can't delay because when progress is postponed, extremists exploit our differences."

The settlement announcement embarrassed Biden, who said it undermined peace efforts, and infuriated the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership, which had agreed to a U.S. proposal for indirect talks under pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on Wednesday he had decided not to enter the talks for now. The Arab League had endorsed a four-month framework for the U.S.-mediated negotiations.

In a telephone conversation with Biden before the Tel Aviv address, Abbas "reiterated to him that Israel must annul the settlement project in Jerusalem so that indirect talks will not be obstructed," Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.

Palestinian officials had no immediate comment on Biden's speech.

In his address, Biden gave no sign Washington would press Israel to cancel the project as the Palestinians have demanded; and Israeli officials made clear it would not do so.

Instead, he termed "significant" assurances from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that building at the site, a religious settlement, would not start for years.

With no construction scheduled for now, Biden said, negotiators would have time to "resolve this and other outstanding issues." He stressed that indirect talks should lead to direct negotiations on key issues of Palestinian statehood.

Housing can be transferred, sold, or even demolished. If the land is to be transferred at some point down the road, a built infrastructure would give the Palestinians a leg up on building a viable economic situation. Israel has transferred or destroyed communities it has built in Sinai and Gaza in furtherance of peace deals. It is not the impediment to peace that the Palestinians or the diplomats make it out to be.

The problem is that the Palestinian leadership doesn't want peace and they don't want a viable state alongside Israel. They want Israel to cease to exist altogether and to take over what the Palestinians see as theirs - Israel.

Biden, in a speech in Tel Aviv, seems trying to paper over the mess he made of the Israeli housing issue and blaming Israel for delays and that such delays embolden the terrorists to act more, which is the reverse of the situation on the ground. Palestinians have delayed action repeatedly by refusing to engage in a peace process and making concessions and fulfilling obligations under Oslo for years at a time. The Palestinians see no reason to resume a peace process since the delay means that more pressure is brought to bear on Israel - not the Palestinians and further concessions by Israel only helps the Palestinians. It's a brutal cycle that does nothing to resolve the situation and leaves Israel in a more precarious position.

The real impediment to peace is the ongoing hostility by Palestinians to a 2-state solution and Israel's existence. Until the diplomats come to grips with that, they're just rearranging deck chairs.

Even now, the terrorists are firing rockets at Israel from Gaza. It's the first attack since February, and an al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility.

That's Israel's partner in peace? They'd much rather see Israel in pieces.

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