Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has found a new victim on whom he can ploy his usual bag of tricks running them round and round never accomplishing anything meaningful all the while pulling sequential bait and switch trading between preconditions and promises. United States Secretary of State Kerry may even be the perfect foil for Abbas and his games as Secretary Kerry is so hungry to make progress that he will see peace just around the corner even if he cannot see a corner. In many ways Kerry is a dreamer of great things and great accomplishments despite the dismay that all others realize exists much as Israeli President Peres has held to the belief that peace is almost within his grasp if just he were allowed one more try. We saw the first signs of this with Secretary Kerry on his last trip when right before departing he spoke claiming about having made solid gains and progress with negotiations almost having been attained and that he would soon have concrete results to show for his numerous round trips between Nablus, Jerusalem and Amman. Then there was the record being clarified with an interview in the Al-Hayat newspaper where Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rejected Secretary Kerry’s claims that the Palestinian authority had made even a single concession. He was further quoted having stated, “Show me one concession we made. When we present the demand for a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, it is not a condition. This issue appears in all the UN documents. We consider any settlement after 1967 illegal based on thirteen Security Council resolutions condemning settlement, and which consider it illegal. In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama opposed the settlements and even any natural growth in them.”
After reviewing Mahmoud Abbas’s statements one might wonder where Secretary of State Kerry came up with the idea that he had made progress of any kind. Having watched closely the seeming magic trance that Mahmoud Abbas appears to be able to spin around the heads of so many such that they believe they are making great strides when nothing has actually changed that I actually believe I know how he produces this effect. The difficulty will be explaining it without the aid of a presentation and graphics. What Mahmoud Abbas does is to make all kinds of grand statements about how he longs for peace and how he is the true hope for peace where everybody is working against making peace and how he has been misunderstood and that the Israelis have maligned his character. Once he has gained the mediator’s sympathy, which with Secretary Kerry who already believes that Israel is the side preventing peace and is already standing with Abbas this is easily attained, he then asks what he could do to assist the mediator in bringing the reluctant Israeli leader, in this case the horrible and hard-nosed Netanyahu who Kerry already believes is no friend of peace or even negotiations, and thus sets the initial trap. One note, it matters little if the mediator begins believing that the Israeli or the Palestinian side is the one impeding progress in the peace talks, it just works so much better for Abbas if the mediator already distrusts the Israelis which in this case is true and is suspect even from the most pro-Israeli person in the State Department, assuming such does exist.
The next step comes when it is suggested that Abbas drop his preconditions as a requirement for him to come to the table. Now the confusing of the negotiations is employed with Abbas asking what preconditions and then getting into discussions debating one precondition after the other and finally, in the end, Abbas choses a couple of preconditions on which he will bend provided the mediating party get Israel to meet them unofficially or on the sly and he will forgo those preconditions. At this point the mediator being anxious to make progress, after all he has a boss known to expect miracles called United States President Barak Obama, believes that if he just gets the Israelis to make these two concessions then President Mahmoud Abbas will drop all of his preconditions. In these last talks with Secretary Kerry the two preconditions Kerry requested, or should I say demanded, of the Israelis was a building freeze of all building in the contested areas including Jerusalem and the release of all Palestinian terrorists serving in prisons since before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed, making these all terrorists serving life sentences and being among the worst of the worst. Netanyahu has agreed to an unofficial and unannounced building freeze in order to avoid an insurrection that might collapse his governing coalition, and to release these prisoners, approximately one-hundred-twenty terrorists over time so as not to cause large scale panic and possible demonstrations and all other forms of chaos and protest. Meanwhile, now that Prime Minister Netanyahu has basically agreed to these two preconditions, Mahmoud Abbas will pocket them and now know he can force Netanyahu to commit to those two preconditions at any time in the future simply because he has proof that he has accepted them previously.
The next step is what we saw just recently where Mahmoud Abbas gives a press conference, makes a speech, or in some means relays that he has not surrendered on a single one of his preconditions. He may at some point also make note that Netanyahu has already agreed to accept two of the preconditions and even name them. Then when Secretary Kerry returns for his next round of talks, Abbas will once again go through the merry-go-round of preconditions and pick one or two more that he would forgo if only the Israelis would meet him part way. Secretary Kerry then relays this compromise to the Israelis, Netanyahu, and pushes him to accept them or at least give him something he can return to Abbas with and then the talks may resume. Of course the talks will not resume until this game has totally played out and Abbas has squeezed Secretary Kerry and with him the Israelis for as many compromises as he is able. Then Abbas will agree to meet and there will be a great fanfare around the restart of the Peace Process. There will be a meeting, likely in Washington so that President Obama can be there beaming with pride as he gets Netanyahu and Abbas to shake hands for the cameras and everybody makes a short speech, well, maybe Obama goes on for twenty minutes, but the rest make short statements. Then a new date is set for the talks to resume in Jerusalem or some neutral site maybe Amman, Jordan, and everything looks to be good to go and peace is just around the corner. Then, a few days before that fateful meeting Abbas postpones it for some reason, such as Abbas enters talks with Hamas over reconciliation and in order to placate Hamas cancels all future negotiations with the Israelis and everything is back to square one except Abbas has pocketed a number of freed terror masters and some no longer negotiable preconditions he can demand from that point forward. That is the way Abbas plays his Circle Games.
Beyond the Cusp