WASHINGTON — Last week’s gentle give and take between the Israelis and Palestinians appears to have survived the tarmac moment.
Reiterated, if qualified, commitments to the U.S.-brokered peace process by the leaders upon their return from Washington was a hopeful sign, considering that past talks have been undermined by the harder lines that leaders take when they hit the home tarmac.
“I believe that we should make every effort to reach an historic compromise for peace over the coming year,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his New Year’s message to the Diaspora. “I guarantee one thing: This will not be easy. But as Israel’s prime minister, it is my responsibility to make every effort to forge a lasting peace with our neighbors.”
Abbas’ aides also sounded a cautiously optimistic note.
Nabil Sha’ath on Tuesday told the French news agency AFP that Abbas “is prepared to succeed in these negotiations, and that the climate in Washington was different.”
There were also qualifications.
In his Hebrew Rosh Hashanah greeting to Israelis, Netanyahu cautioned that “I am telling you this is an attempt because there is no assurance of success. There are many obstacles, there are many skeptics, there are many reasons for skepticism.”
And Abbas held fast to his demand that Netanyahu extend a partial moratorium on settlement building past Sept. 26, which Netanyahu has rejected.
On background, officials on all sides were suggesting that they may be able to overcome the hurdle
“We are going to try to find other means to incentivize them to stay at the negotiating table,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, told Jewish leaders in a Sept. 3 conference call.
An emerging tactic was to focus on the issues that unite the parties. In that vein, a PA official delivered what perhaps was the most stinging rebuke of Iran’s government to date, aligning the Palestinian Authority with Israel and the United States as perceiving the real regional threat as emerging from Tehran. The Palestinians were outraged at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for dismissing the talks as meaningless.
“The one who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified election results, who oppressed the Iranian people and stole authority, has no right to speak about Palestine, its president or its representatives,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said Saturday, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, citing the official PA news agency Wafa.