Published On: Fri, May 20th, 2016

Sting like a Bibi

Op-ed: While Sisi tries to promote peace through diplomatic agreements, the main rhetoric in Israeli politics is more about personal survival



If it weren’t for the parties involved, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s recent call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians could have been viewed as an historical speech almost on par with legendary Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s speech seeking peace with Israel. But, of course, we are not dealing with Sadat and Begin here, but with another Middle Eastern farce, a bad joke made at our expense. What began as a diplomatic move has turned into an inner-party fight for political survival that’s thrown a wrench in the works, as the current Avigdor Lieberman-Benjamin Netanyahu combination lacks what is needed to begin negotiating with the Arab League.

Sisi’s speech, just like Sadat’s, was preceded by a period of several months’ worth of clandestine talks between both sides. They were led by Netanyahu’s emissary, lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, who has been in contact with Sisi’s people in Cairo. Apparently, Egypt’s vision of the Palestinians’ future is apocalyptic: the Palestinian Authority was predicted to collapse, with Hamas losing power to more extreme entities within the Gaza Strip, causing severe ramifications for the stability of the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt at large.

This is why Egypt is looking to renew the initiative it had put forth following Operation Protective Edge, which speaks about establishing a conference between centrist, pro-Western Arab nations that would champion two goals: renewing the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, while also opening up a dialogue between Israel and different Arab countries, thereby strengthening ties when dealing with such regional matters as ISIS and Iran.

Netanyahu’s interest, on the other hand, has been to pull the rug from under what he believes to be a coordinated move between the US and Europe, aimed at forcing Israel and the Palestinians into an agreement backed by the UN Security Council. The Prime Minister’s Office believes this plan is slated to be implemented during the interim between the new US president-elect’s win and their officially taking office: During this period, Obama will be relatively free to do as he pleases, just as other presidents have done before him.

While this has been going on, the Israeli security apparatus has made it clear to Israel’s political establishment that the calm currently characterizing the territories is all for show. All the circumstances that brought on the last wave of terrorism still exist within the area and are ready to erupt once more during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. As a result, Israel has its own interests in renewing the peace negotiations—even if only for the sake of appearances—as a means to head off another violent onslaught.

The agreement between Netanyahu’s office and Sisi’s stipulated that Sisi would first issue a public appeal to renew the peace talks, Netanyahu would then remove his objection to such an initiative as well as a regional conference, following which the two offices would begin coordinating the conference. This would likely have been a convenient solution for everyone involved, as such a meeting would not have been obligated to reach a permanent agreement within a year or two, thus allowing all parties involved to postpone outlining a final roadmap for peace for three to four years.

The problem here? For Netanyahu to have gained an entry ticket to the conference, he would have had to offer up some small, even minimal gesture toward the Palestinians that would allow Sisi to justify the conference and Netanyahu’s participation in it. Such a gesture could have been halting all development in the settlements. For this to have happened, however, Netanyahu would have had to rely on a coalition that would allow for a concession of this order. This was where his romance with Herzog sprang from. Herzog, for his part, couldn’t resist being a part of such an historic moment as an international conference aimed at bringing peace to the region—basically tantamount to the Labor Party’s ongoing wet dream.

As stated, though, from here on out this plan has been thrown to the wind: There isn’t going to be a conference in Cairo, tensions in the territories will continue to rise and Egypt will remain frustrated, as Sisi is given yet another lesson. While he is talking about policies and diplomatic proceedings, in Israel the focus is on internal politics and personal survival.


Via Ynet News

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