There has been some healthy debate on this site concerning the viability of meaningful peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Consensus seems to be pretty pessimistic for various reasons, including the fact that Palestine is split and half of it does not recognize Israel. This may soon change; well at least the first part. Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saad al-Faisal where they discussed an Egyptian plan for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
As a brief reminder, Hamas won elections in 2006, but the cabinet was not recognized by many because of the Islamic group’s refusal to recognize Israel. This led to a five-day civil war and Hamas’ control of the Gaza strip. The reconciliation would call for elections to be held in June 2010 and would help the reconstruction of the Gaza strip which was greatly damaged in Israel’s 22-day offensive in late 2008.
While Hamas still has some hesitations concerning the Egyptian reconciliation plan, Meshaal praised the Saudis for their efforts in moving the reconciliation talks forward. One major hiccup in the process so far is the right of Hamas to continue fighting Israel – this apparently one of several issues that need to be ‘ironed out.’ Though the reconciliation is thought to be in the final stages there are still major differences between the two Palestinian groups – manifested by large quantities of alleged politically driven arrests.
As mentioned, the Palestinian reconciliation comes as Israel, Palestine and a number of moderators gear up for another attempt at peace. At the behest of Egypt, Saudi and the United States, negotiations between Israel and Palestine could start soon. The negotiations are likely, in this commentator’s opinion, result in another round of political jockeying, but little real movement on the peace process. While this is frustrating to say, it is simply true that Israel lacks the political incentive to make the sacrifices needed for peace. Furthermore, just as the numerous politically motivated arrests could damper the Palestinian reconciliation efforts, numerous incidents in the last few days (not to mention the continuing settlement expansion) could quickly bring the negotiations to a stop before they start.
Impediments to Peace talks in the last few days:
– Saudi Foreign Minister calling Israel a ‘spoiled child,’ noting Israel’s expanding settlements ‘cast doubt on the seriousness of (Israel’s) commitment to the peace process;’
– A Hamas official in Lebanon, Ali Baraka, recently stated his intent to fight alongside Hezbollah if Israel were to attack Lebanon;
– The Leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has opposed negotiations with Israel and has said that such negotiations would “bring more disappointment, loss of dignity and violations of rights;”
– Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas as a negotiating partner;
– Israeli PM Netanyahu promised to fiercely respond to any fire from Gaza;
– After violence between Fatah members and the IDF, Abbas is reconsidering the security pact between the PA and Israel; and
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