Donald Macintyre: If Netanyahu can't halt the building, there is no hope

Comment

Share
Related Topics

Even if a face-saving form of words is cobbled together before the current partial freeze on settlement construction ends tomorrow, it's unlikely to be the clear demonstration of good faith for which both Barack Obama and the moderate Palestinian leadership had been hoping.

Unless Mr Netanyahu simply announces that he is extending the present moratorium for another three months he will once again have been seen to deflect US pressure, and without notable political cost.

Mr Netanyahu must know that his resistance to extending the freeze has a symbolic as well as actual importance. If he does not have the political strength to face down the settlers and his coalition's right wing by halting building in settlements – all illegal under almost all interpretations of international law, including Britain's – then it calls into question whether he could ever reach the agreements on Jerusalem, borders and refugees necessary for a deal. And if his reluctance is a matter not of political weakness but of inclination, then it calls into question his sincerity about wanting a deal at all.

The impression left by Mr Obama's speech on Thursday is that he does nevertheless believe that a deal is possible. Maybe he infers that Mr Netanyahu believes the time for the inevitable showdown with his right wing is not now, but when agreement is actually nearer. But either way Mr Obama's heroic-seeming optimism will probably survive the flaky compromise on settlement construction that currently looks the best hope of keeping the talks going at all.

That said, it is hard to see how the talks can succeed in conditions which repeatedly humiliate Mr Abbas. The obstacles are tough enough without further undermining the Palestinian president. It would be rash indeed to assume that a severely weakened Mr Abbas would somehow agree a deal below the Palestinians' well-known bottom lines. Rather it would simply be all the harder for him to sell any form of deal if one is ever reached.

The paradox is that in some ways Mr Netanyahu would be politically well placed to make an agreement – if he chose. He would have to break decisively with the right wing of his coalition, of course. But he has the signal advantage over – say – Yitzhak Rabin or even Ehud Olmert of not having on his right flank another Netanyahu, a potential Prime Minister determined to sabotage any moves towards peace.

The question is whether he is just marking time in the hope of a more right-wing US Congress after November, he genuinely wants a deal but has grossly underestimated what he needs to concede to get it, or he wants to secure his place in history as a peacemaker and actually understands what it will take. The last seems on the face of it the least plausible; after tomorrow we may not know much more than whether the process itself can survive.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pupils arrive at school with their parents at the start of a new school year  

School-run parents: be careful – very careful – what you wish for

Grace Dent
A blackbird gets to grips with a pyracantha bush  

Nature Studies: Summer didn’t end today, it’s been over for a fortnight

Michael McCarthy
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border