Washington 'full partner' at talks: Strength of US determination to extract Israeli concessions is a key issue as Middle East negotiations resume, writes Charles Richards

WHAT does Norman Podhoretz know that the Palestinians do not? Whatever it is, it has added fuel to the more general debate raging within the American Jewish community about the nature of its support for Israel.

When the editor of Commentary magazine and ideological leader of the American Jewish right attacked the peace policies of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, he brought down a deluge of criticism from more liberal Jewish opinion in the United States. Here was the man who, during the dark days when Likud were in power, sanctimoniously admonished all those who sought to criticise the intransigent policies of Yitzhak Shamir. American Jews should support Israel, right or wrong.

In a lengthy apologia in the current issue of Commentary, Mr Podhoretz explained his volte-face. It was not only permissible, but appropriate to criticise the willingness of the Labour government in Israel to trade territory for peace. 'What had been attempted rape under Shamir became under Rabin a happily consensual affair . . . the peace process is a trap from which it will be very hard for Israel to escape.'

Henry Siegman, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress, aired his disgust in the letters page of the New York Times with hawks such as Mr Podhoretz 'who carried on endlessly about the immorality of American Jewish criticism of Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (and who) have suddenly and shamelessly discovered the virtues of democratic dissent now that their man is out of office'.

The substance of Mr Podhoretz's argument was that the proposals made by the Israeli government for autonomy for the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza would lead inevitably and inescapably to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The one group that does not share Mr Podhoretz's prognosis are those who have most to gain, the Palestinians. For the Palestinians, whether in the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Tunis, or their surrogates at the negotiating table in Washington, have found no cause for hope that the interim or transitional arrangements they are discussing now will one day lead to their desired goal of an independent state. It is only with reluctance that they have been brought back to the negotiations in Washington, due to start today after a five-month break.

The hiatus was brought about by a combination of factors: the change in the US administration, and the furore caused by Mr Rabin's expulsion of some 400 Palestinian Muslim militants in December. Since then, the US has been seeking to tempt the Arab parties back to the table. The administration had little difficulty with the three Arab states: Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It had rather more problems with the Palestinians, who demanded - and obtained - a week's postponement. This, however, will probably be the last time the Palestinians can exercise a veto over the others. For this ninth round of talks will differ from previous ones in that it will be a continuous negotiation. Delegations will be free to come and go as they wish. They will not need to come all together or leave as one.

The inducements the US gave to persuade the Arabs back to the table centre on one main area: the commitment made by the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, to act as 'full partner' in the search for a peaceful settlement. It is this, rather than any expected Israeli concessions to the Palestinians on the substance of autonomy, which is thought likely to be the main change in the next phase of the negotiations. The Israelis have said they will take some measures to improve the human rights situation, such as permitting the return of 30 or so Palestinian activists expelled over the past 20 years (out of a total of around 2,400).

Some misgivings have been expressed in Arab quarters about the apparent greater support for Israel shown by President Clinton. In his first joint press conference with Mr Rabin, he was positively gushing. Other doubts have been expressed about the wisdom of appointing Martin Indyk, a former lobbyist with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, as the new Middle East supremo at the National Security Council. Yet the tilt back towards Israel had begun at Kennebunkport, holiday home of Mr Clinton's predecessor, George Bush, who warmed up the relationship with Israel after the induction of Mr Rabin. US policy in both administrations has been to embrace Israel, to assure it that the US would guarantee its interests, and then to seek to extract from it the territorial concessions required for a lasting peace settlement. The test of US diplomacy now will be to see how determined it is to play a more active role to obtain an agreement on the second part.

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport