The decision passed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the cabinet Wednesday regarding the halt of construction in Judea and Samaria was supposed to prompt an immediate response by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in respect to a Palestinian return to the negotiations table.
However, a senior official on the Palestinian side was quick to dismiss the Israeli gesture and announced: “We have no intention whatsoever to renew our talks with Netanyahu.”
Despite Netanyahu’s announcement that construction will be renewed following the 10-month freeze, anyone who has been monitoring the relationship between Bibi and Obama is convinced that even at the end of this period, no Israeli bulldozer will be making its way to a West Bank hill. The freeze will go on.
Those who were unable to withstand the American and international pressure thus far will not be able to withstand future pressure.
Netanyahu can seek comfort in one thing only. The pledges he made are “pretend pledges.” First, because for a long time now, no new construction plans have been approved in the settlements. On top of it, Netanyahu does not intend to put an end to the construction of thousands of residential units that are already in process, the construction of public buildings in the West Bank, or any kind of construction in Jerusalem. So is it any wonder that Benny Begin is an enthusiastic supporter of this “freeze”?
Hamas smells weakness
And what about the deal with Hamas? According to all indications, Hamas rejects the generous offer submitted by Israel via the German mediator. Officials that are privy to the details of the negotiations say that “Hamas smells weakness and a great desire on Israel’s part to cut a deal at any price.”
And there is good reason for that. In an interview with Channel 2 on Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak dismissed the talk of “red lines” that need to be presented by Israel in respect to the identity of the terrorists to be released as part of the swap. “It doesn’t matter what the previous government decided,” he said, hinting of different realities at this time.
For years, Netanyahu used to boast of a formula premised on the notion of “if they give something, they’ll get something in return; if they don’t give a thing, they won’t get a thing.” Now, in his second term in office, Netanyahu keeps on giving, without getting proper compensation.