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Monday, December 20, 2010

Wikileaks: Israeli pessimism for peace

One of the remarkable things about Wikileaks, at least as far as Israel is concerned, is that they show that the State Department has been surprisingly accurate in describing the Israeli mood. While most news media, university professors (I mean you, Walt and Mearsheimer), NGOs (HRW and Amnesty) and pundits all too often layer their own biases or wishful thinking on their analyses, the State Department cables - at least in the case of Israel - "get it." This surprised me because there is a history of pro-Arab thinking at State, which may indicate that the decision makers are discounting what Israeli leaders are saying. But at least the lower-level diplomats who are writing these memos are not coloring the reports for an agenda, which is a refreshing change after years of reading inaccurate stories about Israel in places like the New York Times or Reuters.

Here is an example:

Polls show that close to seventy percent of Israeli Jews support a two-state solution, but a similar percentage do not believe that a final status agreement can be reached with the Palestinian leadership. Expressed another way, Israelis of varying political views tell us that after Abu Mazen spurned Ehud Olmert's peace offer one year ago, it became clearer than ever that there is too wide a gap between the maximum offer any Israeli prime minister could make and the minimum terms any Palestinian leader could accept and survive. Sixteen years after Oslo and the Declaration of Principles, there is a widespread conviction here that neither final status negotiations nor unilateral disengagements have worked. While some on the left conclude that the only hope is a U.S.-imposed settlement, a more widely held narrative holds that the Oslo arrangements collapsed in the violence of the Second Intifada after Arafat rejected Barak's offer at Camp David, while Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza resulted in the Hamas takeover and a rain of rockets on southern Israel. Netanyahu effectively captured the public mood with his Bar Ilan University speech last June, in which he expressed support for a two-state solution, but only if the Palestinian leadership would accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and the Palestiian state would be demilitarized (and subject toa number of other security-related restrictions o its sovereignty that he did not spell out in deail in the speech but which are well known in Wahington). Palestinian PM Fayyad has recently termed Netanyahu's goal a "Mickey Mouse state" due to all the limitations on Palestinian sovereignty that it would appear to entail.