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Netanyahu’s Quiet Capitulation Sets Up Indirect Talks

Indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians are apparently going to begin shortly after all. A series of developments enabling the implementation of the American plan begin with word that although not saying it out loud, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has bowed to President Obama and slapped a de facto freeze on building in east Jerusalem. Having blinked first, the Netanyahu reversal set up word from Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud ‘Abbas that he expects to participate in the indirect talks euphemistically referred to by American interlocutors as “proximity talks” as soon as the Arab League approves the move. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in Washington for talks with the U.S. administration, is reaping the largesse of the White House efforts to stem the domestic political backlash against a perceived too-tough-on-Israel White House policy. Barak’s treatment is markedly different than that afforded to Netanyahu during his most recent trip to Washington. The U.S. administration has been promoting the idea of indirect talks as a diplomatic breakthrough even though many foreign policy experts opine that indirect talks following more than a decade of face-to-face negotiations on numerous levels are a step backward.