The Obama administration is preparing to settle scores with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for his campaign against US-led nuclear diplomacy with Iran, by holding him to blame for the impasse in Israel-Palestinian negotiations. This will ignore the uniform assessments by US and Israeli intelligence analysts that it is the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who is holding out against all Secretary of State John Kerry’s Herculean efforts for a peace accord with Israel, say debkafile’s Washington and Jerusalem sources.
Abbas (Abu Mazen) is sure that he can get more from the international community by diplomatic manipulation and effective propaganda. He believes he holds enough cards and leverage to manage without having to reach terms for deals with the US or Israel.
He is only playing along with the Americans and Israelis for one purpose – not to lose US and other Western financial assistance. Earlier this month, the European Union said it would discontinue the $1 billion annual contribution to the Palestinian Authority if a peace accord with Israel was not signed within a year. Abbas appreciates that the Europeans would follow the American lead for an aid cutoff.
The US-EU aid packages totaling $1.5 billion account for nearly all of the PA’s regular revenue. The most up-to-date intelligence data reaching Washington and Jerusalem confirm that if Abbas were to find an alternative source of income, he would grab it and drop out of the peace negotiations like a shot.
But the Obama administration and Netanyahu government alike are ignoring these assessments and pressing on with the talks, mindful of the end-of-April deadline set for reaching the finishing line.
This gap between reality and wishful thinking provides fertile ground for groundless speculation, such as the conjecture which drags the long-serving Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard into the equation in the form of a rumor that Washington may consider releasing him as a reward for Israel’s consent to release certain convicted Palestinian terrorists, including Israeli Arab citizens.
Another such rumor is that the US will put before the parties next month a final plan for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
According to debkafile’s Washington sources, Kerry refuses to be discouraged by Abbas’s evasions and has indeed drafted a non-binding five-page working paper, which is not a plan. He will put it before Netnayahu and Abbas early next month without asking for any commitments for or against the outline.
Both will be invited to record their reservations and comments. This will supply the fodder for extending the negotiations for several more months after the first six-month period expires.
Sitting on Netanyahu’s desk too, according to our sources, is a confidential report on the Obama administration’s plans for personal retribution for the offensive he pursued against the signing of an accord to provide Iran with legitimacy for its nuclear program.
Washington plans to get back at the Israeli prime minister by pinning on him – not Abbas – the blame for the inevitable impasse in the talks with the Palestinians. He will be depicted as a political failure who heads a dysfunctional government and a serial denier of peace.
This smear campaign will be conducted internationally and in Israel, by rallying Israel’s foes abroad and Netanyahu’s political enemies at home.
debkafile has heard from a high-placed source in Jeruslem that these plans are viewed in Jerusalem as “highly problematical.” They see Israeli and American media and other personalities recruited for a personal, political vendetta against the prime minister at a level well outside acceptable bounds – even when governments disagree.
Netanyahu is well aware that the Palestinian question is not the issue. He knows he is facing the music – politically and personally – from the Obama administration for his effort to sway the US Congress against the policy of US rapprochement with a regime in Tehran which is dedicated to Israel’s extinction.
Administration sources explain that Netanyahu will be receiving a dose of his own medicine and this is legitimate.
So, as John Kerry prepares to pay his 12th or 13th visit to Israel and Ramallah, Netanyahu faces three dilemmas:
1. Iran keeps on bragging that the Geneva accord brought its nuclear program and right to enrich uranium nternational acceptance, while at the same time flouting its provisions right and left. Cutting-edge centrifuges have been installed for speeding the enrichment of uranium close to weapons-grade, and the construction of the heavy water reactor in Arak continues apace. The Iranians are capitalizing on the failure of the Geneva conference to set a date for the onset of the interim six-month period for further negotiations, and using the time to further their military nuclear projects.
The Geneva accord was designed to disqualify the military option for ending Iran’s chase after nuclear weapons. So what happens now?
2. The level of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis is expected by all intelligence branches to escalate. However, the Israeli government and military are tied hand and foot by the formality of ongoing US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians. Although they know exactly who is pulling the wires behind the current violence, the Israeli military can’t strike at its heart. And so Israeli officials and military spokesmen are resorting to euphemist depictions, such as “popular, disorganized violence, to avoid action.
3. The US campaign of deprecation against the Israeli government and its head has begun. How to deal with it?