We have come to expect The New York Times to seize almost any opportunity to peddle its view that Israel is the real impediment to peace in the Middle East. This time the Times outdid itself with a bizarre spin on the Gilad Shalit release. This from an editorial last week.
We share the joy of Israelis over the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years. We will leave it to the Israeli people to debate whether the deal – which includes the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – will make their country safer or lead to more violence or more abductions of Israeli citizens.
We are already concerned that the deal will further thwart an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the only real guarantee of lasting security for both sides.
Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has compromised with Hamas, we fear that to prove his toughness he will be even less willing to make the necessary compromises to restart negotiations. And we fear that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah faction, who were cut out of the swap altogether, will be further weakened….
One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas – which shoots rockets at Israel [and] refuses to recognize Israel’s existence…why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to keep the peace in the West Bank?….
The United States and its partners should keep trying to get negotiations going. Mr. Abbas should see the prisoner swap for what it is – a challenge to his authority and credibility. The best way to bolster his standing is by leading his people in the creation of a Palestinian state, through negotiations. As for Mr. Netanyahu, we saw on Tuesday that the problem is not that he can’t compromise and make tough choices. It’s that he won’t.
So Israel is to blame for not having negotiated a deal with Mr. Abbas that is the functional equivalent of the Shalit release? Can the Times really be suggesting Israel is at fault for not using a similar, grossly one-sided, calculus with the Palestinian Authority? Is this the kind of “tough choice” Prime Minister Netanyahu should be expected to make?
And what of the Times’s fear that the deal “will further thwart an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement”? The Times explains that Mr. Netanyahu may now try to be unusually tough to compensate for the lopsided deal and Mr. Abbas “will be further weakened” because of Hamas’s success in freeing its prisoners.
Actually, all Mr. Abbas had to do was negotiate seriously and realistically with Israel and he would have already won the Palestinians a state. Hamas can’t bring about a state, and the Palestinian people know that. But Mr. Abbas has weakened himself – perhaps irretrievably – by his pointless effort to secure UN recognition and abandoning negotiations. It is Mr. Abbas who has made his own position untenable by taking himself out of the only game where he can produce results.
It should be noted that a significant number of the Palestinians just released were jailed for crimes committed after the Oslo Accords, at which time the PLO renounced terrorism. So they are guilty even under Palestinian law. Yet Mr. Abbas has taken to referring to these killers of Israeli civilians as heroes: “You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.”
The Times calls upon the United States “and its partners” to try to prod both Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Exactly what part of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s persistent call for unconditional negotiations – now falling on deaf Palestinian ears – doesn’t the Times get?