Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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Tennis in the Holy Land

bb-oba-abbBy Sherine Tadros

Six weeks to the day since direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were relaunched and we've seen the settlement moratorium expire, the Palestinians threaten to walk out of talks and the Israeli cabinet approve one of its most racist laws of all time.

But the main players did fit in a nice post-summer mini-break, aka 'peace summit round 2', in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

And to think we were all skeptical at the start of this US-led peace endeavour.

But this week has seen an interesting twist to the story.

On Sunday, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, revealed he had offered to [consider] asking his cabinet to extend the [partial] settlement freeze in the West Bank (not including Jerusalem).

In return, he asked for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as the Jewish homeland (and not the homeland of millions of Palestinians that fled following Israel's creation and hope to one day return).

Amazingly, this was called an "offer" and the ball bounced right back into the Palestinian court.

On Wednesday, Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo made a "counter offer".

We'll recognise a "Chinese State" of Israel, he said sarcastically, as long as Israel agrees to withdraw to 1967 borders.

It was a strong forehand play that landed bang on the back line.

Rabbo was saying if Netanyahu wanted to engage in ludicrous offers, two can play at that game.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership quickly distanced themselves from Rabbo’s comments and Hamas called for his immediate resignation, forcing him to keep a low profile.

What this little rally shows us is a sad but increasingly obvious reality which is unfolding.

As with every other peace process in the past 17 years that's tried to tackle this conflict - the first sign of demise is both sides aggressively positioning themselves as the champions of peace, forcing the other side to play the rejectionists.

This week's tennis may not be anything new - but it is a clear indication that if the current stalemate continues, with the US not willing to exert real pressure on Israel on the settlement issue, there will be no next round in this peace process.

And less than two months after they were launched, the talks will be over - game, set and match.

Sherine Tadros reports from Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

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