Saturday, September 04, 2010

Poor prospects for Israel-Palestine peace talks

Peace talks are formally under way again between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is excluded from the negotiations. Stephen Walt is pessimistic about the prospect of these talks bringing a permanent settlement of the issues, as he explains in Direct talks déjà vu Foreign Policy 08/30/2010:

Here's the basic problem: Unless the new "framework" is very detailed and specific about the core issues -- borders, the status of East Jerusalem, the refugee issue, etc., -- we will once again have a situation where spoilers on both sides have both an incentive and the opportunity to do whatever they can to disrupt the process. And even if it were close to a detailed final-status agreement, a ten-year implementation schedule provides those same spoilers (or malevolent third parties) with all the time they will need to try to derail the deal. I can easily imagine Netanyahu and other hardliners being happy with this arrangement, as they would be able to keep expanding settlements (either openly or covertly) while the talks drag on, which is what has happened ever since Oslo (and under both Likud and Labor governments). Ironically, some members of Hamas might secretly welcome this outcome too, because it would further discredit moderates like Abbas and Fayyad. And there is little reason to think the United States would do a better job of managing the process than it did in 1990s.

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. Fatah has already recognized Israel's existence and has surrendered any claims to 78 percent of original Mandate Palestine; all they are bargaining over now is the share they will get of the remaining 22 percent. Moreover, that 22 percent is already dotted with Israeli settlements (containing about 500,000 people), and carved up by settler-only bypass roads, checkpoints, fences, and walls. And even if they were to get an independent state on all of that remaining 22 percent (which isn't likely) they will probably have to agree to some significant constraints on Palestinian sovereignty and they are going to have to compromise in some fashion on the issue of the "right of return." 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. [my emphasis]
Ali Abuniimah is also pessimistic in Hamas, the I.R.A. and Us New York Times 08/28/2010:

Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways. The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north. At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.
The near-monopoly once held by pro-Likud hardliners in the Israel lobby in the US is at least loosening up, with the increasing prominence of more realistic groups like J Street, who are also more representative of the outlook of American Jews than AIPAC, still the best-known and most powerful of the the pro-Likud lobbies in the US.

J Street's M.J. Rosenberg writes in Brilliant Op-ed in Times On Why Mideast Talks Without Hamas Are A Farce TPM Cafe 08/29/2010, commenting on Abunimah's op-ed: "Bottom line: this week's negotiations are probably going nowhere because (1) Hamas is excluded and (2) the United States is in Netanyahu's pocket."

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