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‘The options are not good’

May 15,2014 - Last updated at May 15,2014

There is no doubt that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fumbled badly and Israel is now deep in muddy waters.

Time is not on the side of Israeli prime minister. He has to move forward speedily and sincerely to avoid more serious problems in the near future

President Jimmy Carter underlined in a column in The Washington Post this week that both Palestinians and Israelis have a “vital interest” in a two-state solution “based on international law and the UN resolutions”.

He also advised Secretary of State John Kerry to “issue a summary of his conclusions as a ‘framework for peace’,” something Kerry had hoped the Palestinians and Israeli peace negotiators could do during the nine months of negotiations that was ended abruptly, on April 26, by Netanyahu three days before the scheduled deadline.

The former president, author of “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”, said that the Palestinian plans for the coming months are “relatively clear”, namely, “to form a new unity government and expand involvement in the United Nations”.

Despite “condemnation by some”, the former president said, the decision by the Palestine Liberation Organisation to reconcile differences with Hamas, the Palestinian group now in control of the Gaza Strip, and move towards elections “can be a positive development”.

His point, probably much to the chagrin of Israel and the United States who see Hamas as a ”terrorist” group, is that the formation of a Palestinian national unity government is “necessary because it would be impossible to implement any peace agreement between Israel and with just one portion of the Palestinians”.

Carter, who initiated the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, also endorsed the Palestinians’ move at the United Nations, because it can be “beneficial”.

His point is that “a united Palestinian government with wider international recognition, newly elected leaders and assured financial support from the Arab world may provide an opportunity for a new round of peace talks”.

This would permit Israel, he continued, to “finally” live in peace with its neighbours — a step that the international community should endorse.

However, Aaron David Miller, a former senior negotiator in the Middle East peace process, told Bernard Gwertzman in an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations, that Netanyahu’s government, which includes extremist right-wing members, “frankly, isn’t inclined to support the kind of conflict-ending agreement that the Palestinians and Americans would like”.

His point is that “Hamas [would have to] recognise Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous agreements. So you have this enormous gap”, adding that “the options are not good”.

One, however, has to remain hopeful.

Since Israel has extremist right-wing members in government, one would guess that the alternative would be for Netanyahu to dissolve his Cabinet and try to build a new moderate coalition.

Naturally, this will depend on whether Israel and the United States will accept Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ proposal to form a Cabinet of technocrats that can negotiate a two-state settlement.

But whether Netanyahu is ready to gamble remains to be seen.

In response to a question of whether the Israeli prime minister is ready to recognise a Palestinian state, Miller pointed out that Netanyahu “is a man whose self-image is not driven by becoming a midwife or father of Palestinian statehood”, adding: “It is delivering Israel from the shadow of the Iranian bomb, and maintaining Israeli security in a fraught, broken, angry and dysfunctional region. It is not that of a peace maker.”

Miller’s bombshell: “There was a mistaken assumption that somehow [Netanyahu] could be courted into making these decisions.”

His final point was that “there is no answer to the question of what the United States does now. And frankly, there shouldn’t be. Because we need to first understand the nature of the problem before we run around trying to fix it”.

The ball is obviously back into Obama administration’s court.

The writer is a Washington-based columnist.

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