Brain Bush’s Blog

Chess and a Playbook

  • By : Brian Bush
  • October 25, 2011
  • 5:01 pm

Hi Everybody,

Yesterday I reported on the Harvest Show that the Israeli Defense Forces have recommended strengthening Palestinian President Mohmoud Abbas by a series of gestures in light of the perceived strengthening of Hamas after the prisoner swap to gain back Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Now interestingly enough, Mr. Netanyahu's advisers are saying, in media reports, that Mr. Abbas must be punished.

But why do this when one would think that the Israelis want to strengthen the moderates among the Palestinians – especially with the buoyed standing of Hamas?

Well, it's a huge huge huge game of political chess. The main play this week has been that the Palestinians have accepted the Quartet for Peace's plan for the resumption of peace talks – albeit with some conditions.

Now one of the benefits of being here for years is that you see and learn how things work between the Israelis and Palestinians – as opposed to just reporting the news as it happens.

One of the other things I spoke of yesterday was the freeze on construction of settlements in the West Bank that are held by the government of Israel.

The American administration is proposing the resumption of negotiations this “quiet” maneuver until end of peace negotiations. According to this proposal, Israel would not build outside boundaries of current settlements but would not say so officially.

It's part of the build up to tomorrows meeting of the Quartet members here in Jerusalem with both Israeli and PA representatives in order to move those negotiations forward.

The Palestinian Authority has upped the ante by attempting to capitalize on the IDF's declaration to release Fatah prisoners by saying today that they want the release of Marwan Bargouti (seen as a potential replacement for Abbas) and another high profile figure upon the resumption of negotiations.

The Palestinians are partly basing this on a promise made to them by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and like the freeze of construction in settlements, they feel this is living up to a commitment.

The Israeli response says it all. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Mr. Abbas's resignation would be a blessing for Israel.

So what is the political play here on the chess board of diplomacy?

Netanyahu believes he can get a better deal for Israel than what the peace negotiations will give him. Thus, some in the Israeli media are saying he wants to punish Abbas for his quest for peace and for going to the UN in the Palestinian's desire for Statehood to achieve it.

In order to do this Netanyahu broke his own rule by negotiating with Hamas. Hamas is defined as a terror organization, and the Quartet's rules parallel Israel's official stance saying that negotiations cannot be held with Hamas – and those rules are still in force.

But Mr. Netanyahu did because it serves his short-term political interest.

Remember Ariel Sharon? He also wanted to punish Mr. Abbas after the removal of Yasser Arafat for Abbas's insistence on accepting the Road Map for peace, which in doing so he effectively cornered Israel into keeping it's prior commitments.

Sharon punished him with the risk that turned into reality when Hamas took over Gaza once Israel withdrew from the strip – and they did.

Maybe Mr. Netanyahu is taking from the playbook of Mr. Sharon and seeking to punish Abbas for accepting the Quartet's plan for peace, which some are saying will bring Hamas into Ramallah.

For many, that's unthinkable – but noone thought Hamas would win democratic elections, and no one thought they would be able to kick out Fatah from Gaza… but they did both.

Brian Bush
Middle East Correspondent
LeSEA Broadcasting

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