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.

Resumption of Israel/Palestine direct talks: can they get anywhere?

Yes because... No because...

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.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both our peoples to live in peace and security and in dignity

are not words that we would have expected from Netanyahu.

Aluf Benn writes in the Washington Post

Aluf Benn

The man who had spent his life chanting "No, no, PLO," and explaining why a Palestinian state would mean the end of the Jewish one, has begun singing the old mantra of the Israeli left wing: "Two states for two peoples." The standard-bearer for Israeli conservatism has jumped on the peace bandwagon. As unlikely sights go, it is up there with Nixon shaking Mao Zedong's hand in 1972.

[[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 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 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.

Resumption of Israel/Palestine direct talks: can they get anywhere?

Yes because... No because...

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

The great paradox of the negotiations is that United States is clearly willing and able to put great pressure on both Fatah and Hamas (albeit in different ways), even though that is like squeezing a dry lemon by now... The obvious point is that when you've got next to nothing, you've got very little left to give up, no matter how hard Uncle Sam twists your arm.

[[Stephen Walt, Direct talks déjà vu, Foreign Policy, 30/8/10, http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/08/29/direct_talks_deja_vu

Resumption of Israel/Palestine direct talks: can they get anywhere?

Yes because... No because...

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.

Shmuel Rosner

The time gap in expectations then exists for a very different reason. It reflects both sides' deep (and to large extent justified) mistrust in one another: Israelis' reasonable mistrust that agreement will actually lead to peace -- Palestinians' understandable mistrust that Israelis will ever implement the agreed solution. The problem is that such mistrust leads to mirror-image desires. For the Palestinians, it means "now" -- because they can't have faith in any promise for a better future. For Israelis it means "later" -- only after they are incrementally and fully convinced that this time the Palestinians (and the rest of the Arab world) mean business and can handle business.

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

Let's do a deal now -- because patience is running out. Not now -- because we need to verify before continuation. Now -- because Iran is gaining and we need to show some positive achievements. Not now -- because we need to solve the Iranian problem first and deal with lesser problems later. Now -- because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not someone whose hidden intentions can be trusted. Not now -- because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cannot really provide us with the security we want. Now -- because Barack Obama only has one more year before he gets into full presidential election mode. Not now -- because the political considerations of the American in chief should not be a factor when dealing with a century-old dispute.

[[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

So now or not now?

Resumption of Israel/Palestine direct talks: can they get anywhere?

Yes because... No because...

The EU appears to be funding the conflict

It is certainly true that the EU funds the Palestinian authority. However the United States does as well.

[the USA has] helped with the “gendarmerie-style” training of West Bank-based PA security personnel. As of June 2009, approximately 400 Presidential Guardsmen and 2,200 National Security Forces troops have been trained at the Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC) near Amman.

Approximately $395 million in U.S. funds have been reprogrammed or appropriated through the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account for training, non-lethal equipment, facilities, and strategic planning assistance for the PA forces, and for PA criminal justice sector reform projects, including $100 million for FY2010 pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117).

[[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 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 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.

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.

[[http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/4989056/EU_aid_to_Palestine_is_funding_the_conflict/]]

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