The New York Times devoted its editorial to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today, and urged him to agree to direct peace talks with Israel, in order to test the earnestness of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intentions – if nothing else.
“After three months of American-mediated proximity talks… We don’t know whether Mr. Netanyahu, a master manipulator, really wants a deal or whether his hard-line governing coalition would ever let him make one,” said the editorial.
The paper lists three reasons for Abbas to agree to direct talks. The first being that US President Barack Obama has “invested lots of political capital in a justified but poorly executed attempt to push the Palestinian position by playing hardball with Israel on settlements.
“It caused tensions with Mr. Netanyahu and with American Jews. He is pressing hard for direct talks and aides say he is losing patience with Mr. Abbas. It would be foolish for the Palestinian leader to alienate an American president who is committed to playing a more balanced role in negotiations.”
The second reason, said the New York Times, is that Abbas has the backing of the Arab League, “Including crucial states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt… the group formally gave him a green light – important political cover – to enter direct talks. They should be prepared to increase aid to the Palestinian government and take steps, like opening trade offices, that will boost Israel’s confidence in a peace agreement.”
The editorial suggests that the nearing end of the settlement freeze should serve as the third reason, saying that “if direct talks are underway, (Netanyahu) should have no excuse to resume building. If there are no talks, Mr. Abbas will give him an escape hatch.”
Abbas, said the New York Times, has no other way of “testing Netanyahu’s intentions and whether there is any real chance of peacefully achieving a Palestinian state.”
The Palestinian president, concluded the editorial, “is seriously wrong if he thinks his leverage – and the future of the Palestinians – is in staying on the sidelines.”