Palestine papers: The view from Tel Aviv

By David Landau, January 27, 2011
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Livni: came close to closing a deal

Livni: came close to closing a deal

"The evil thing that they perpetrated has come back at them," Moses's father-in-law Jethro rejoiced in last week's sedra. With luck, and some serious statesmanship, that could yet be the outcome of the evil thing perpetrated by Al Jazeera this week against the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Plainly, the skewed spin that Al Jazeera (and - how terribly sad to say so - its accessory, the Guardian) put on selectively leaked diplomatic documents from 10 years of failed peacemaking was intended to poison the Palestinians against their leaders.

It didn't happen.

It's not easy to demonstrate against an authoritarian regime with tough security forces like those Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayyad have been building up. But all over the Middle East this week, protesters have taken to the streets and braved the police. The West Bank, under the PA, has been a veritable island of tranquility.

This was meant to turn Palestinians against their leaders. It didn’t

That is because people there were neither surprised nor shocked by the concessions offered by their negotiators in order to achieve the two-state solution, leaked piecemeal in the past and confirmed now in the daily dribble of official documents. Nor do they regard those concessions as craven, pace the Guardian. Nor do Israelis regard their side's massive concessions as shocking, craven or a reason to take to the streets.

The old saw, that a majority of Palestinians and Israelis support a two-state solution, happens to be true. Also true is the other old saw, that everybody knows, more or less, what a two-state solution would look like.

The negotiations between Abbas and Ehud Olmert, between Abu Ala and Tzipi Livni, came unstuck over that tantalising "more or less". But they were close. They were in the same ball-park. That's what Al Jazeera has - inadvertently! - proved to the two endlessly frustrated and disappointed peoples, chapter-and-verse.

It was a sorry sight to see Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, ambushed on air, squirming and fibbing. Like his malevolent interviewers, he did not credit the Palestinian people with the intelligence to understand the contours of the only peace deal possible. It takes courage, it takes leadership to trust your own people.

Livni, happily, had no need to squirm or dissimulate. She emerges from the protocols a tough Israeli patriot and at the same time a personable and sensitive diplomat.

One poignant outcome of the week's drama is a heightened sense of amazement, even outrage, in the Israeli peace camp towards the Obama administration. How on earth could the president and his secretary of state have wasted almost two years on an inept quest for a settlement freeze that included areas of Jerusalem which - as they knew full well - the Palestinians themselves earmarked as part of Israel?

The leaks are an overdue but not too-late clarion call to Washington to insist now on that which Obama should have insisted from Day One of his presidency and Binyamin Netanyahu's prime ministership: resume the negotiations from where they left off.

David Landau is a former editor of Haaretz

Last updated: 4:03pm, January 27 2011