The New York Times reported:

Israel on Sunday formally accepted an international proposal to return to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but any immediate resumption of talks appeared unlikely as the Israelis and Palestinians differed sharply over the letter and spirit of the proposal

A senior Palestinian official said over the weekend that after three days of deliberations, the Palestinian leadership had decided not to return to talks unless Israel halted all settlement construction and agreed to clear terms of reference for the negotiations — requirements that were perhaps implied but not spelled out in the Sept. 23 statement of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers, which is made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

But facts never get in the way of the Obama administration. A State Department spokesman released a statement Sunday: “We welcome the Israeli government’s announcement today expressing readiness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, as called for by the Quartet.The Palestinians expressed support for the Quartet approach on September 29. The U.S. once again calls on both parties to resume negotiations without preconditions, on the timetable proposed by the Quartet, as the best means to advance their interests, resolve their differences, and fulfill the President’s two-state vision.” Umm, but didn’t, you know, the Palestinians say just the opposite?

Josh Block, a long-time Democratic activist, e-mailed me: “It is interesting that the State Department refers to the Palestinians as having ‘expressed support’ for the idea, given that they rejected out of hand negotiations without preconditions just the other day, again rejecting talks unless Israel meets their unilateral demands as a precondition for talks — exactly the opposite of the approach the Administration and Quartet called for in their statement.”

Put differently, the administration operates in a counter-universe in which “no” never means “no,” when it comes to the Palestinians. There is little wonder that President Obama’s team is now perceived as a dishonest broker by both sides. Keep in mind that Mahmoud Abbas has denied a direct appeal from the president and gone to the U.N. Security Council to abrogate years of U.N. resolutions and international agreements (calling for bilateral negotiations). The U.S. reaction? Oh, yeah, yeah, the Palestinians are fine with negotiations.

No, they aren’t. They insist on preconditions they know to be unworkable. For anything else would put Abbas in the position of having to actually negotiate with Israel for statehood. Why would he do that, when he might obtain diplomatic recognition (however incremental) without need of recognizing the Jewish state or forgoing claims to the right of return?

Diplomats are in the business of keeping the “process”moving. But when the only way to do so is to misstate one party’s position, you know the process is a fraud. Perhaps it is time for the United States to take the Palestinians at their word. They’ve chosen partnership with Hamas over bilateral negotiations with Israel. They should now live with the consequences, including loss of American aid, of that decision.