U.S. gets the level of candor it deserves from Israel

Evelyn Gordon at Contentions points to a minor but intriguing revelation from WikiLeaks. It seems that, in January 2007, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told two U.S. senators that, based on exploratory talks with the Palestinians, she didn’t believe a final-status agreement could be reached with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Yet, in her current capacity as opposition leader, Livni publicly takes the position that a peace deal is achievable, and she attacks Prime Minister Netanyahu for his failure to produce one. Asked to explain the contradiction, Livni claims that a peace agreement wasn’t achievable in 2007, but is now.
As Gordon notes, however, Livni provided no analysis to support this supposed transformation by Abbas, nor does any exist. In reality, says Gordon, “Abbas is no more willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, agree to defensible borders, or cede the ‘right of return’ than he ever was.”
But, as Gordon adds, Livni is not alone in publicly overstating the possibility of a peace accord these days:

Virtually the entire Israeli governing class adopts the same tactic. Despite privately believing that Abbas isn’t ready for peace, it publicly insists that he is — and thereby implicitly paints Israel as the party responsible for the ongoing lack of peace. And it does so not only for political gain but also at its own political cost.
Netanyahu, for instance, repeatedly claims that Abbas is his “partner for peace,” with whom he could reach a deal in a year (if only Abbas would agree to negotiate with him). But having insisted that Abbas isn’t the obstacle, the obvious conclusion is that Netanyahu himself must be the problem. After all, some obstacle must exist, since peace clearly hasn’t broken out.

Why the hypocrisy? In my view, it’s driven by the West in general and the U.S. in particular. President Obama wants to hear that Abbas is ready for peace — after all, U.S. policy depends on this premise. For israel to deny it would be a slap in Obama’s face.
It’s easier, then, to string the administration along by mouthing the platitude. There may be, as Gordon argues, some cost because Israeli officials are implying that they may be the obstacle to an agreement. But the cost probably would be greater if the U.S. simply blew off America’s pet Palestinian as a fraud.


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