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      Diplomatic Tide Turns Against Abbas as He ‘Freezes’ Talks

      The constantly changing sands in the Middle East leave Abbas roasting under diplomatic heat as he faces blame for “freezing” talks with Israel.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 9/28/2010, 2:44 PM / Last Update: 9/28/2010, 2:54 PM

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      The constantly changing sands in the Middle East have left Abbas roasting under diplomatic heat as he faces blame for “freezing” talks with Israel.

      He has frozen discussions with Israel while giving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu five days to reinstate the building freeze on Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria. If Israel does not comply, Abbas said he will turn to the Arab League to consider the next step.

      However, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently has checked Abbas in what has become a diplomatic game of chess.

      U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell hurriedly returns to Israel Tuesday in a frantic attempt to save the Obama administration’s diplomatic “momentum” effort from falling into a ditch that seems to get deeper by the day.

      Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been hoping to expand a proposed Palestinian Authority-Israeli agreement to a regional peace accord. Mitchell last week visited Lebanon and Syria, which also hosts the headquarters of the Hamas terrorist organization.

      The U.S. envoy said that Syria and Lebanon, where Damascus and the Hizbullah terrorist party increasingly influence the country’s affairs, are keys to a regional peace.

      American expectations that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu would find a way to overcome PA demands for a building freeze are fizzling out. The administration publicly said it was "disappointed” that Israel did not extend the 10-month moratorium on building, a move that was made under American pressure to satisfy Abbas’ condition for direct talks.

      Despite the verbal criticism of Israel by the United States as well as the European Union and the United Nations, Abbas is increasingly viewed by media and analysts as the reason for the failure to sit down with Israel.

      Prime Minister Netanyahu has “managed to leave the dead cat [of prospective blame] at the doorstep of both the Obama administration and Mahmoud Abbas,” Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator, told Politico’s Ben Smith.

      “Last summer, Israel owned the dead cat,” Smith wrote. “Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made plain their view that Netanyahu’s failure to stop all settlement construction on the West Bank was the obstacle to resumed talks, and after an ill-timed construction announcement, Clinton’s office released details of the unusual 43-minute tongue lashing she delivered to the Israelis.”

      “There are people on both sides who have no confidence [in the peace process] and so the name of the game is who gets blamed," pro-PA think tank expert Hussein Ibish told Smith. “[That] is why the Palestinians can say a million times that they’ll walk out — but they can’t.”

      Any doubt about support for Israel from Washington was removed on Monday when 87 senators—almost the entire U.S. Senate—signed a letter that effectively praised Prime Minister Netanyahu and blamed Abbes for the latest impasse.