A few days ago we saw the much anticipated tripartite meeting between Mahmoud Abbas, PM Netanyahu, and President Obama, in that usual stance where Israeli and Palestinian leader are clasping hands and the US leader is in the middle, hands outstretched, in that sort of “I know, deep down, you really do love each other,” type of body language.
Let’s take a quick analysis of this picture, comparing it to the old one back in 1993. First of all, Obama looks a lot less happy then Clinton. Oh, but wait a minute: So does Abbas, and Bibi for that matter. They all look fairly miffed, like nobody really wants to be there, or they’re all constipated and need some fiber capsules. It’s hard to tell.
What’s really interesting, though, is that Israel is on the same side of the picture as she was in 1993. The left side. Abbas is on the right, as Arafat was. What is the significance of this? Take a look at any popular book on body language. What it will tell you is that to show the palm of your hand is an expression of capitulation, whereas to show the back of your hand is an expression of power and domination. When Bibi is on the left side of the picture, shaking Abbas’ hand with his right, he shows the back of his hand in the photograph. Abbas is left open-palmed and helpless.
I solute Bibi on this move, whether or not he did it accidentally.
But then again, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Nobody wanted to be in that picture in the first place anyway. And back home, everybody is griping about it. Following the meeting, Minister Without Portfolio (AKA Minister of Absolutely Nothing â€“ there are a few of those in Bibi’s government) Benny Begin (son of the late PM Menachem Begin) called the chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat a “wild beast of a man” quoting the Bible in describing Ishmael.
Senior PA officials who came along with Abbas to New York called it something of a “complete failure,” in that Obama is reportedly no longer demanding a total settlement freeze from Israel. Further, Bibi and Abbas reportedly came back from the meeting with totally different conclusions, Bibi’s being that negotiations will proceed without preconditions, and Abbas’ being that negotiations will only resume after a total settlement freeze. At least they both came away with conclusions at all.
MK Danny Danon, a Likud lawmaker, said that now that Obama failed to obtain any concessions from Arab countries, Netanyahu must restart unlimited building in Judea and Samaria. That’s the right. And on the leftâ€¦
Even Yossi Beilin, architect of the Oslo Accords and former Meretz chairman, is all hot and bothered. In his words, “It was clear that the participants were not enthusiastic about the meeting. It wasn’t a meeting of people who want to make peace.”
What would give you that idea? Could it be the looks on their faces? So I repeat the question posed in the title of this article. How long will this game of picture-taking and delay go on until somebody makes a move, somewhere, on some sort of principled stance involving any kind of conviction?
Could be a while. I wouldn’t count on anybody currently in office moving anywhere significant.