Ramallah

The former foreign minister returns to politics by forming a new centrist party.

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The Visionary

If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.

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Who lost Fayyad? This is the question that historians, and Israelis, and Palestinians, will ask about the most recent spiral into nothingness of the search for the necessary peace.

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In terms of Israeli politics, I have always been a left-winger. Or at least that’s what I thought before a Saturday in April, when I attended the TEDx Ramallah conference, which took place simultaneously in Bethlehem, Amman and Beirut. After a long day of listening to inflammatory polemics, I understood that I needed to re-identify, to add a small qualifier to my political affiliation: No longer am I simply a left-winger, but rather a Zionist left-winger.

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  The joint Fatah-Hamas statement in Cairo this week announcing an impending agreement between the two leading Palestinian factions has caught nearly everybody off their guard.

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Commentary's Jonathan Kellerman thinks opposition to settlement-building is the equivalent of Nazism: Like most neurotic obsessions, preoccupation with “settlers” would benefit from some stepping back and aiming for context. What we’re really talking about is the right of Jews to live wherever they please. The concept of Judenfrei — moving Jews out of specific areas of Europe — was a bulwark of Nazi policy that rapidly devolved to the even more viciously racist notion of Judenrein, cleansing Jews from all of Europe. We all know where that led.

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It is as clear as daylight, and my particular information with all the caveats and special emphases comes from the most respectable pro- Palestinian journalist there is.  His name is Tobias Buck and he writes for the Financial Times where every piece published about the Jewish state--whose capital, in case you didn't know, is Tel Aviv--is jaundiced.  Jaundiced as in exhibiting distaste and hostility. Buck has a story in today's FT about the state of the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  They are, as I've been suggesting for months they would be, going nowhere.  George Mitche

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In his session with the press after an Oval Office discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Obama said, “We expect ... proximity talks to lead to direct talks, and I believe that the government of Israel is prepared to engage in such ... talks.” Indeed it is, without further ado and without preconditions. But it takes two to tango, and the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to initiate such talks unless Israel agrees to a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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Well, there was no divorce between the U.S. and Israel. And there was even some respect, if not affection. Affections, we know, is kept for the Arabs. But this was not quite the venue for showering kisses on the Palestinians. After they are still maintaining the distance of "proximity" talks which means Abbas in Ramallah with Netanyahu and his team in Jerusalem. That's six miles apart, very remote miles. And it's the Palestinians who are keeping the distance. Barry Rubin, a real expert and a true scholar, is not fooled by anyone. This is still the beginning of a long road.

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So the Obama administration seems to believe. It has not, at least in my memory, been struck by anything the P.A. has done or said that is inimical to negotiations and to peace. While it commands this and then that from Israel just to get the Palestinians to sit down and talk, the talking will not be between the parties at all but a three-way process with George Mitchell shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and back.

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