Netanyahu not to blame for failed peace talks

December 16, 2010

In "Netanyahu's Historic Mistake" (Dec. 14), Robert O. Freedman unfairly blames Israel for the latest stall in peace talks by characterizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as uneager to truly negotiate.

The settlement issue on which Mr. Freedman hangs his argument is a red herring, pure and simple. What is really halting peace talks is the seeming lack of interest in negotiating on the part of the Palestinians. The Palestinians act as if they can't even come to the table if any settlements exist. It's yet the latest in a long line of preconditions and obstacles the Palestinians continue to place in the path of peace. Isn't that what negotiations are for — to discuss sticky issues?

In reality less than 5 percent of the West Bank consists of the settlements that are supposedly the major sticking point for the Palestinians.

Mr. Freedman also doesn't mention how continued Palestinian incitement against Israel, which occurs on the watch of the Palestinian Authority, remains a severe obstacle to achieving an agreement with Israel.

The Palestinians say they want their own state, but every opportunity that they have had to move the process forward remains unrequited.

Any discussion of peace talk failures must include, which Mr. Freedman did not, Palestinian incitement, the preaching of anti-Israel hatred in the media, in schools, and in mosques; and the ongoing honoring of terrorists by Palestinian officials.

For two decades, Israel has made several opportunities possible to move the process forward, including a withdrawal from Israeli settlements in Gaza. And during that time, the Palestinians have offered little in return.

Where is the criticism of Palestinian intransigence? Of Palestinian incitement? Of the ongoing foot-dragging and ever-changing preconditions that stop the Palestinians from even coming to the negotiating table?

In focusing only on settlements, Mr. Freedman's tunnel vision misses the real story of what's behind the suspension of peace talks.

Daniel S. Mariaschin, Washington

The writer is executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International.

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