Resumption of Israel/Palestine direct talks: can they get anywhere?
Here we go again, another round of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have had them before and they never seem to get anywhere. But there always has to be some hope that this time there will be a breakthrough. Just like 'only Nixon could go to China' it is possible that only someone on the Israeli right like Netanyahu can sign a peace deal with the Palestinians. There are reasons to hope; A President with more support from the Palestinians who may be willing to pressurise the Israelis, everyone having signed up to the road map and a general acceptance that things cant go on as they are. Still there is a long way to go.
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Nixon goes to China
It is a well known saying that 'only Nixon could go to China.' This means that only a right wing republican could settle issues with Maoist China without an immense backlash. Normally it would be expected that a Democrat would be most likely to make peace, they have a reputation for dovishness (want peace) while Republicans are generally regarded to be hawks (be more agressive). Therefore it would be expected that Nixon would be agressive towards China. However it was exactly because he was known to be a right wing republican that he could make a deal with Mao's China without provoking outrage.
Exactly the same could occur with Palestine-Israel. We have the furthest right wing government ever in Israel at the moment which means it can potentially make deals that its predecessors could not.
are not words that we would have expected from Netanyahu.
Aluf Benn writes in the Washington Post
[[Aluf Benn, At the Mideast peace talks, a changed Netanyahu, Washington Post, 5/9/10, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302209.html%5D%5D So perhaps there is some hope after all.
Netanyahu's intentions do not matter much because he is in a coalition government with parties that are even more right wing than him. If he does a deal, or even looks like doing a deal they dont like those parties could walk out putting his government in jeprody. He has Yisrael Beiteinu's 15 Knesset members in the coalition with its leader Avigdor Lieberman as his Foreign Minister. Yisrael Beiteinu is strongly against any restriction on settlement activity, let alone deconstructing some which would have to come from any peace deal.[[Far right joins Israel coalition, BBC News, 16/7/09, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7945351.stm%5D%5D Nixon did not have to face anything like the domestic opposition that Netanyahu does. In the US presidential system even if there is domestic opposition to a foreign policy move there is little that they can do about it.
Palestinians have little they can give up.
The Palestinians come into the talks with little left to give up. They will therefor find it difficult to make any new concessions. they have given up any possibility of getting 78% of the original palestine mandate and are haggling over the remaining 22%. At the moment they have little soverignty so how can they give more up? How can the palestinian authority prove that it can reign in the militants and how with what is left could they ever sell a peace deal to their own people?
[[Stephen Walt, Direct talks déjà vu, Foreign Policy, 30/8/10, http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/08/29/direct_talks_deja_vu%5D%5D
The problem of time.
According to Shmuel Rosner the main problem that confronts peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is no longer a simple one of borders, whether people can return or how to divide Jerusalem, it is one of time. This is really a difference in mindsets and in trust. The Israelis want a slow peace with a long build up to it to allow for Israel to be able to verify that there will be no going back to violence while the Palestinians need peace now or else they cant believe they will ever see it.
This creates an obvious problem, how can you have a peace deal that both starts now and sometime in the future? If there is a build up to peace the Palestinians wont buy it and violence will resume so destroying the process. If it is immediate the Israelis wont agree because they believe that Fatah cant immediately bring the whole of Palestine with him.
This also takes a big part in not only can a deal be reached but should a deal be reached now or later.
[[Shmuel Rosner, Time Bomb The most difficult obstacle to making Middle East peace is the one that's ticking away from us., Foreign Policy, 7/9/10, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/09/07/time_bomb%5D%5D
So now or not now?
The EU appears to be funding the conflict
The EU gives aid to pay for Palestinian Authority money every year to pay its public sector workers. As the Palestinian Authority is run by Hamas, one of the terrorist organisations involved in the conflict and one which on a list of the EU's designated terrorist organisations. This means that people are not focused on the basics of life, but have the time instead to be involved in the conflict and whilst the basics of life are taken care of there is no incentive for compromise and peace to be reached. Although the EU may be well meaning it is keeping people dependent and preventing natural enterprise which would otherwise develop.
It is certainly true that the EU funds the Palestinian authority. However the United States does as well.
[[Jim Zanotti, U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority, CRS Report for Congress, 8/1/10, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R40664.pdf%5D%5D This happens because not all of the Palestinian Authority is controled by Hamas. The PA itself is based in the west bank that is still controled by Fatah and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad[[http://www.worldstatesmen.org/Palestinian_National_Authority.htm]] who still has the support of the USA and is seen by Israel as being a potential partner for peace.[[Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, Prospects for Arab-Israeli Regional Cooperation, Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vol. 9, No. 19, 7/2/10, http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=3360%5D%5D This has been the case since the split between Hamas and Fatah in 2008 that split Palestine down the middle. That the EU continued helping the PA while both parties were sharing power is no longer relevent to ongoing negotiations.
There is of course a balancing act when it comes to aid for the gaza strip, it is one of the poorest and most crowded areas on the planet and obviously needs humanitarian assistance but with Hamas control it can be difficult to keep everything going to those who need it most.
What do you think?