Several Israeli officials, including the finance minister and Neftali Bennett, the economy minister and leader of the rightwing Jewish Home party, have thrown cold water on the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord over the past few days.On Tuesday, Bennett gave a fiery speech in which he skewered Prime Minister Netanyahu for his handling of the U.S.-brokered peace talks, especially for a comment Bibi made about settlers in the West Bank living in a future Palestinian state. Bennett argued that the peace process could ruin the Israeli economy. “Our forefathers and our descendants will not forgive an Israeli leader who gives up our country and divides our capital,” Bennett said. The PM’s office demanded an apology.Then on Wednesday the finance minister took the opposite view, warning that a failure to reach a settlement with the Palestinians could have severe repercussions for the Israeli economy. “This is a real process with a real economic impact,” he said in a speech in Tel Aviv. “Israel’s economy today is much more vulnerable than its national security.” The WSJ continues:
EU foreign ministers on Jan. 20 pledged to make available an “unprecedented European political, economic and security support package” to both Israelis and Palestinians “in the context of a final status agreement.”The ministers have also warned against actions—including decisions to build Jewish settlement in the territories—that could undermine the talks.
As speculation increases over the Kerry proposals and how Israel and the Palestinians will respond, it’s worth noting that since 1940s Israelis have accepted a series of compromise proposals involving two state solution, while for a variety of reasons the Palestinians have a history of rejecting them. The most pro-peace Palestinian leaders ever are (nominally) in charge, but their position is weak. They are deeply unpopular among Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority government is seen as both ineffective and corrupt. Do the Palestinian leaders think they can get ordinary West Bank Palestinians to back what will inevitably strike many as a surrender to Israel rather than a fair peace?That may well be the highest hurdle peace negotiations face, and one factor in Israeli calculations will be that if the Israelis sign up and the Palestinians don’t, Israel gets big political credit without actually having to do anything concrete, while the Palestinians give themselves a black eye.