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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

July 20, 2010

What is President Obama thinking? Without a miracle among the Palestinians, the peace talks are a farce.

Dear Friend of FLAME:

By any measure, conditions are so far from conducive to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that you have to wonder what President Obama and his aides are thinking.  As this week's FLAME Hotline article outlines below, even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu were to agree on peace terms---a most unlikely scenario---the Palestinians are simply in no position to carry out any such agreement.

Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, gave a hint of the Administration's strategy last week when commenting on the current "proximity" talks he'd been conducting with Abbas. The U.S., he said, understands "the difficulties and complexities" in trying to realize the vision of a comprehensive Middle East peace contemplated by Obama.

So it's not just peace between Israel and the Palestinians that Obama wants and why he has been fervently courting other Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and, infamously, Iran.  The President knows that these Middle Eastern nations have long used Israel as an excuse for the lack of stability and social and economic progress in the region (though Israel itself is very stable, socially progressive and an economic powerhouse).

Thus, Obama seems to want to placate the Arabs and Muslims with cooler-than-normal (if not at times outright hostile) behavior toward Israel, coupled with a seemingly sincere and robust effort to negotiate peace. If he can win their trust, he seems to think, he can achieve peace in the entire region.

The Arabs and Muslims must be laughing up their sleeves at the President.  So far, his efforts to woo these Middle Eastern countries have brought zero warming of relations with our enemies---only mockery---and not much cooperation from our "friends," Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  These countries realize, too, that for all Obama's show, there's virtually no chance of bringing the Palestinians together, let alone Israel and the Palestinians.

First, the Palestinians won't (can't) even consent to direct peace talks with Israel, which Netanyahu has been requesting for months now.  Mitchell is reduced to a farcical shuttle diplomacy, communicating Abbas's futile, fantastical and ultimately impotent demands to Netanyahu.

Second, there's almost no indication in Palestinian society that the Palestinian people or government actually desire a long-term peace.  Forget the rampant anti-Semitism in the Palestinian press and mosques, forget the fact that Israel doesn't even appear on maps of the region in the Palestinian territories. But just last week, Abbas, appearing in Jordan, said that "We are unable to confront Israel militarily . . . [but at the Arab League Summit] I turned to the Arab states and I said: 'If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor.  But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don't have the ability to do it.'" (To that we can only say, thank goodness!)

In short, the proximity talks seem to be a thin cover Obama is using to show the Arabs and Muslims that he can be trusted. But surely the President, to say nothing of the regional states he's trying to convince, realize the sad truths spelled out in Israel-Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh's article below.

Please pass this analysis on to your friends and colleagues using the "Forward to a Friend" button at bottom of this email.

Best Regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


I was having lunch recently with a pro-Israel supporter, and he said, "I just don't think Israel has good public relations!"  I'm sure you've heard or even said the same.  But have you seen FLAME's latest hasbarah---our ad on "The Great "Peace Flotilla" Ambush? How Israel fell into a trap, carefully set by its enemies"---which has appeared in publications nationwide, including college newspapers, with circulation in excess of 5 million?  Please take a look at it, and if you agree that FLAME's brand of outspoken public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

Middle East Proximity Talks: Questions for Washington
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Hudson Institute, New York, June 29, 2010

Even if Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to reach a peace agreement sometime in the near future, it is certain that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to implement it or sell it to a majority of Palestinians.

Therefore the first and most important question that decision-makers in Washington and European capitals need to ask themselves these days is: Is there a majority of Palestinians who are prepared to make far-reaching concessions in the context of a peace treaty with Israel? Is there a Palestinian leader who is willing to make compromises on explosive issues such as Jerusalem, settlements and the "right of return?"

Frankly, there is no way that Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas could accept anything less than what his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, rejected at the botched Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. Back then, Arafat refused to sign a document pledging to "end the conflict" with Israel unless he got 100% of his demands.

In addition, there are serious doubts as to whether Abbas would be able to persuade a majority of Palestinians living in refugee camps in the Arab world to accept any peace agreement with Israel that did not include the "right of return" to their original villages in pre-1948 Israel.

Abbas, however, is not in a position to accept even a "partial" agreement on the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. No Palestinian leader has thus far dared to publicly make the slightest concession on this issue.

Further, Abbas could not sign any deal that excluded the Gaza Strip; he would then be accused of "solidifying" the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Moreover, although the Palestinian Authority has said it would consider land swap, apparently many Palestinians are opposed to it.

The second question that Washington needs to ask is: Do Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have enough credibility and support among Palestinians to be able to sell to a majority of them a peace deal with Israel?

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority cannot go to the Gaza strip; they have limited control over the West Bank, and are still lacking in credibility, at least as far as many Palestinians are concerned.

Three years ago, the Palestinian Authority was kicked out of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, thereby losing direct control over 1.5 million Palestinians.

The private and official residences of Abbas in the Gaza strip have been seized by Hamas, which sometimes uses them as interrogation and detention centers.

Just recently Hamas declared that Abbas would not be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip unless he receives permission from its government. This means that when and if Abbas strikes a deal with Israel, he would not even be able to travel to the Gaza Strip to implement it or try to sell it to the Palestinians living there.

Even though Abbas lives and works in the West Bank, many Palestinians have long been questioning whether he really has full control over the area. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether he and Fayyad, enjoy the support of a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank. Some Palestinians are convinced that if a free and democratic election were held tomorrow in the West Bank, Hamas would definitely emerge victorious. Hamas would win, they argue, mainly because most Palestinians still do not regard Abbas's Fatah faction as a better alternative to the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The third question that the US Administration needs to ask itself is: Where is Abbas supposed to implement a peace agreement with Israel? In Tel Aviv?

So what is the point in launching "proximity talks" between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority while ignoring the fact that the partner in Ramallah would not be able to deliver his side of an agreement?

Also, why do the Americans and the Europeans continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Palestinians already have two states—one in the Gaza Strip under Hamas and the second in the West Bank under Fatah?

It is becoming increasingly hard to tell what the Palestinians exactly want. While once a majority of them appeared to support the idea of a two-state solution, many seem to think that the one-state solution, where Jews and Arabs would live together and not apart from each other, is not a bad idea after all. Then there is a third group that continues to believe that the only solution lies in the elimination of the Jewish state.

The only way to move forward with any peace process is by insisting that the Palestinians first get their act together and end the infighting between the two Palestinian states. Perhaps before we search for ways to make peace between Jews and Palestinians, we need first need to find a way to achieve peace between Palestinians and Palestinians.


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