WASHINGTON – Last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu experienced something that happened to many of his predecessors before, and to him too in his previous term as prime minister: He boarded a plane in a relatively peaceful state, but when he landed, the news of a murderous terror attack landed along with him. He boarded the plane in a certain mood, and disembarked from it in a wholly different mood.
The terror attack in Hebron does not change the essence of the summit much. It merely reinforces Netanyahu’s security demands, which he intended to present at the core of his statements here in any case.
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Of course, the attack boosts his bargaining power in respect to the construction freeze. He would be able to explain to the Americans that when the settlers are victims of terror, the Israeli public has trouble reconciling itself to a decision on an continued freeze.
In other words, the terror attack, with all the frustration it provokes and with all the anger and fury it evokes, provides the prime minister with a tactical, PR weapon. The Palestinians are not the only ones to arrive in Washington as underdogs. The same is true for Israel.
There is no doubt that Mahmoud Abbas will be condemning the attack. As far as condemnations go, Israel cannot have any qualms with him. However, Israel would be able to ask whether the Palestinian Authority is determined enough and strong enough to prevent attacks after an agreement is secured.
Bibi willing to discuss everything
In the past too, any movement on the diplomatic front prompted an intensified effort by terror elements to sabotage, murder, and torpedo. If Tuesday evening’s attack proves something, it is that as opposed to the low expectations on the Israeli and Palestinian street, some terrorists believe that this summit may lead to results.
Netanyahu headed to this summit with much adrenaline. During the flight he did much in order to convey a sense of willingness (and almost enthusiasm) ahead of the launching of direct talks; he also conveyed a sense of optimism, whereby should Abbas want a deal, an agreement would be secured within a year.
Netanyahu is willing to talk about everything (he refrains from explicitly mentioning Jerusalem, and this is no coincidence,) and he is also willing to show restraint when the Palestinians will present the Americans with their long list of complaints. He prefers to focus on the Palestinian conduct in the negotiations, yet what truly concerns him is America’s conduct; the level of US involvement, and which side the Americans will be on.
The prime minister rejects the argument that he arrived in Washington only to ensure that the other side is blamed for the failure. In the blame game, he says, there are only losers.
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