With negotiations set to begin between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the public statements by both sides indicate that the distance between them is vast, and that the chances of an agreement emerging from the talks is next to zero. As a result, say some Israeli analysts, it is possible that the PA is using the talks as a means of gaining some small, short term “victories” over Israel, giving PA chief Mahmoud Abbas more ammunition with which to fight rivals that seat to unseat him, both among Hamas terrorists and in his own Fatah terror group.
Since discussions about restarting the talks have emerged, PA officials have consistently claimed that Israel has agreed in advance to surrender much of Judea and Samaria, institute an unpublicized building freeze in all of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, and a mass release of terrorists from Israeli prisons. What is left to negotiate are the “border adjustments” for the Israeli withdrawal, the status of Jerusalem, and the immigration of mass numbers of Arabs to Israel, descendants of Arabs who fled when the country was first established. It should be noted that the Americans have not denied these reports.
On the other hand, Israeli officials, from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu down, have denied most of the PA's claims, saying that absolutely no preconditions were set for the negotiations, and that no building freezes would be instituted. One thing they have not denied, however, is that Israel will release terrorists. Israeli sources said that the terrorists are all old and no longer constitute a threat, and are likely to be released as a “gesture” for Ramadan, which continues for another two weeks.
While Netanyahu and others have claimed there will be no building freeze, residents of many Yesha communities tell a different story – that a “quiet freeze” has been going on for some time already, and that Netanyahu, who inherited the final approval powers for construction in Judea and Samaria from former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is just as obstinate as Barak was about not approving construction.
It is the claim that they foisted a building freeze on Israel, as well as the release of terrorists, that Abbas and his cadre are interested in, and the reason they are entering into negotiations, the Israeli analysts believe. Abbas is in no political shape to bring a final-status, much less a partial-status, agreement to PA officials or voters, as he has no authority not only in Gaza, but in large parts of Judea and Samaria, where residents are loyal to either other Fatah terror leaders, or to Hamas.
In order to bolster his position, the analysts said, Abbas will make a show of negotiating – for as long as it takes to achieve his two objectives, releasing terrorists and imposing an “official” building freeze. Once he has achieved that, they said, Abbas will find a reason to break up the talks – blaming it on Israel, of course – and go home with his victories in his pocket.