Erekat’s Latrun gambit

In commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the start of the Six Day War, the New York Times published a press release for the Palestinian Authority, On Anniversary of Arab-Israeli War, a Palestinian Plea:

It was here on the wooded slopes of Latrun on Tuesday that Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, chose to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1967 war and to call for an end of Israeli occupation.

“I am sure many of you are asking why is Saeb Erekat bringing you to this point,” Mr. Erekat said to a group of diplomats and reporters as he stood against a backdrop of green fields, a reservoir and an Israeli settlement of red-roofed houses in the valley below.

“It is not because I want to demarcate the maps or finalize the negotiations,” he said, referring to the intensive efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry to get the Israelis and Palestinians to return to peace talks. “I just want to stand here and say, ‘It is 46 years later.’ ”

Control of Latrun was critical for control of the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and at the time, Arab forces had been poised to to attack Irael’s narrow coastal corridor. Much as Erekat obfuscates the issue, control of Latrun was essential for Israel’s survival.

The New York Times continues.

If nothing else, Mr. Erekat’s selection of Latrun spoke to the great distance between Palestinians and Israelis. Many Israelis consider Latrun to be an integral part of Israel. Drivers heading to either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem speed across the unmarked armistice lines along the main highway, slicing through several miles of West Bank territory and designated stretches of buffer zone, oblivious to the area’s fraught history.

The reporter tells us the obvious, but leaves out something else that is obvious. The Palestinians once again are seeking to “move the goalposts.” Erekat’s press conference was apparently the first move in a new campaign.

Israel Matzav writes:

The ‘Palestinians’ have responded to US Secretary of State John FN Kerry’s pressure on Israel for concessions… by seeking even more concessions. The ‘Palestinians’ are now seeking two of Israel’s biggest tourist attractions: Mini Israel and the Latrun tank museum. In fact, they’re seeking the whole area around Latrun…

A favored Palestinian official gives a press conference and a reporter for the New York Times dutifully records his statements without explaining what he is doing. She simply writes, “here’s one more Palestinian that needs to be addressed by Israel,” and not “the Palestinians keep changing their demands.”

Jonathan Tobin comments:

Erekat’s candor is in a sense quite commendable. Latrun is a potent symbol of the nature of the Israel that existed in those halcyon days before the obstacle to peace was the presence of Jews in the West Bank and in which a small state with indefensible borders and a capital that could be isolated with ease stood on the precipice of destruction as Arab armies began to mass on its borders. Erekat was sending a clear message to Israelis that if they thought the PA would ever accept the fact that the world had irrevocably changed in those 46 years they could just keep dreaming.

As Erekat well knows there now exists a broad consensus within Israel about the desirable nature of a two-state solution. That consensus includes Prime Minister Netanyahu and most of the members of his government. Indeed, even the Israeli right knows that if the Palestinians ever offered a complete end to the conflict and recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn they would find the majority ready to make painful territorial sacrifices. But by laying down a marker on Latrun—a place that no Israeli in his right mind would ever consider leaving—Erekat was making it clear their real priority was not peace but an effort to merely continue the conflict on more advantageous terms.

Indeed, reminding Israelis of the Israel that existed from 1949 to 1967 is not exactly the way to reassure his ostensible peace partners of the PA’s good intentions. But of course what else can you expect of a peace negotiator that has boycotted peace talks for the past four and a half years?

Israel begged Jordan not to join the war. King Hussein convinced of Egypt’s early success against Israel joined in seeking to cut Israel in half. western Jerusalem was bombarded. Israel did not decide “we will dispossess the Palestinians” and seek war. War was forced on them and they fought to survive. Erekat wishes for the world to forget that.

Elder of Ziyon asks a very important (rhetorical) question:

If the Six Day War hadn’t happened… Would there be a Palestinian Arab state today on the West Bank and Gaza?

Perhaps that’s something that Erekat ought to consider. If Jordan hadn’t attacked Israel in 1967, would he now be an international celebrity for promoting Palestinian nationhood?

The rest of the New York Times article is a lament about how both sides are being unreasonable and how this mutual stubbornness will sink Jonh Kerry’s peace plan. When it’s one side that refused to negotiate and then changes the parameters of negotiations isn’t that the side that is uninterested in peace?