Talks about Talking about Negotiating Peace

Yesterday, it was reported that the US was drafting letters of guarantee to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to restart peace talks.  This, of course, came amidst reports that Israel was planning on building nearly 700 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem, despite the settlement freeze.  Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is now planning on visiting Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz to discuss the stagnate peace talks with Israel.  Apparently they will also discuss the possibility of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.  As for Israel, PM Netanyahu is in Cairo today to discuss the possibility of peace.  Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit noted that the Jerusalem construction plans would be discussed.  According to Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Institute of Palestinian Studies :

“The mere fact of Mubarak meeting Netanyahu in Egypt is in and of itself an instrument of pressure on Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian president] to accept whatever conditions the Americans may be putting forth.

“The message that is coming from the Egyptian leadership now is that what the Americans are going to propose is good enough for the most important Arab state and therefore it should be good enough for the Palestinian leadership,”

The possible terms for negotiation for Israel are becoming clearer.  Prior to Tuesday’s trip to Cairo, Netanyahu gave a speech in Jerusalem in which he reiterated the necessity of a demilitarized Palestinian state.  He also noted that the borders of any future Palestinian must be patrolled by Israeli soldier and not an international coalition:

Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu said, was necessary for any agreement with the Palestinians that would lead to an end to the conflict.

“We want an end to the conflict,” he said. “That means the Palestinians must stop attempts to use a Palestinian state as jumping-off point for further claims against Israel. No claim to flood Israel with refugees, which would mean the end of the Jewish state; and no irredentist claims to the Negev, Galilee or Israeli citizens, which would mean the dissolution of the Jewish state.”

Regarding Israel’s demands that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized, Netanyahu said this would necessitate preventing the import of rockets and missiles that could be fired into Israel, as was currently the situation in Gaza and Lebanon.

He said the situation in Lebanon, and the rearming of Hizbullah despite Security Council Resolution 1701 prohibiting just that, proved that agreements on paper were ineffective.

“I am doubtful that anyone can do this except a real Israeli presence, Israeli forces,” he said, intimating that in any future agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli forces – not international ones – would have to be on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to prevent it from importing arms and staging attacks against Israel.

Yet despite his willingness to negotiate, Netanyahu still gave to OK to the Jerusalem settlement construction plans.  Both the United States and Palestine called the construction a barrier to peace.  However, in a sign that the United States is perhaps ready to seriously push Israel to negotiate, the Obama Administration condemned the construction plans and demanded an explanation for the murder of three unarmed Fatah militants by the IDF.

Even with the talks in Saudi and Egypt and with the ‘letters of guarantee’ – which were requested by Egypt to assure that upcoming negotiations would be attempt to create a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders – it would be foolish to look at the possibility of these negotiations with anything but skepticism.  Once again, negotiations without Hamas still leave a militant group in control of half of Palestine.  Without Hamas, a true and lasting peace will never be found.  Furthermore, in talks with Mubarak, Netanyahu agreed that future negotiations would include talks over the status of Jerusalem.  This city has extreme importance to Israel and Palestine, not to mention Jews, Christians, Muslims…  The announcement to build in East Jerusalem – the capital of any future Palestinian state – is much more symbolic than any other settlement expansion.  It is hard to believe that serious negotiations can be had while Israeli homes are being built in the Palestinian capital.

In unrelated Israel news, a Palestinian shepherd was shot in the shoulder by an Israeli settler.  The official report from Israel is that the Palestinian man tried to take the Israeli man’s rifle.  However, an eyewitness has said that this report is false and that the man was shot while verbally arguing.

In Gaza there are reports that Hamas is building its own phone network.  Such a network would make it more difficult for Israel to listen to conversations in Gaza.  Currently, the phone network in Gaza runs through Israeli providers.  Best part of the article?  The implication that the Hamas phone network is the reason why Palestine is divided:

The project is reportedly an emulation of the independent telephone network Hizbullah set up in South Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut in 2007. The alternative phone system was dubbed illegal by Lebanon’s government and a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Revelation of the network sparked street riots as many Lebanese saw it as evidence of Hizbullah creating a ‘state within a state.’

“We don’t know if this network is in place or not,” Ahmed Asef, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank told The Media Line. “But in any case, Hamas is upsetting the whole Palestinian political system. What they’re doing is wrong. We have a Palestinian law which also governs the communication sector and this sector is regulated.”

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