Are the Peace Talks Worth It?

Can Peace move forward when neither side is ready?

First off, I want to offer an apology for the severe dearth of posts lately. I have relocated to a new medinah and the move did some damage to both my energy levels and my internet access (though I won’t pretend that the month-long World Cup had nothing to do with my month-long hiatus). Now that I am settled, I can hop back onto the blogging horse. With that preface out of the way, I would like to move to a little game of “What’s Worse?” – subtitled as “What’s wrong with the peace talks?”

Two articles caught my eye recently concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict; one in the Jerusalem Post and one in Ma’an News. The JPost compares the threats to Israel – as analyzed by ex-consul general in New York turned political commentator Alon Pinkas – posed by a nuclear Iran and one-state solution to the occupation. Pinkas warns that if Israel postpones withdrawing from the West Bank, Israel would face more of an existential crisis than if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons:

He suggested that unless the peace process gets under way immediately the Palestinians will opt for one binational state in which they will demand the right to vote. If Israel were to incorporate the Palestinians and allow them to vote, this would imperil Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, and in Pinkas’s view, would pose a much greater threat than a nuclear Iran.

This, of course, is not a new theory. Influential Israelis – such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak – as well as international commentators (me?) have noted that the threat to Israel’s Jewish identity is more dangerous to Israel than Iran. Unfortunately, it is far easier for the Israeli government (and its American backers) to simply push the threat of war with Iran rather than make the concessions needed to save the Zionist ideal: war with Iran costs money and American prestige, withdrawing from the West Bank means forgoing the vision of extremist Jewish and Christians who wait for all the West Bank to be incorporated into Israel (42% of the way there?).

[tweetmeme] Considering the support that the Netanyahu Administration receives from the extreme right in Israel and the US, it is hardly surprising that the real threat to Israel is being put on the back-burner, playing second fiddle to constant rhetoric and useless sanctions against the Persians.

On the Palestinian side – and, consequently nestled in Ma’an News – we find a second ‘What’s Worse?’ choice. During a trip to Romania (Romania? Really?), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas revealed that making peace with Israel is just as difficult and just as important as finding reconciliation with Hamas. Interestingly – albeit unsurprisingly – Abbas makes no note of the primacy of the second challenge; peace with Israel is impossible without the consent of Hamas and, naturally, consent from Hamas can only come through reconciliation with Fatah. It is refreshing, though, to see a Fatah official speak about the Palestinian rift without criticizing Hamas for refusing to sign the Egyptian sponsored reconciliation agreement (more on this below):

Asked whether making peace with Israel or unity with Hamas was a more difficult task, Abbas said “there are difficulties in both; we want the unity of the Palestinian people and we want the independence of Palestine.”

Far too often, discussions surrounding Palestinian reconciliation are futile with Fatah and Hamas accusing each other of creating obstacles to a united Palestine. Fatah has signed a reconciliation pact brokered by Egypt, but Hamas has refused, thus far, to ink the paper. Hamas officials want to negotiate further concerning the official Palestinian position to the occupation and the right of Palestinians to resist. Fatah has called on Hamas to sign the agreement and to discuss details after (does that make sense?). The two groups have recently met in Beirut however to push for understanding.

The two articles, other than being connected to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, are rather unrelated. Yet both show what seems to be the folly of the current round of US mediated peace talks. As the US – through envoy George Mitchell – continues to push for direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis, it seems as if both sides have domestic political issues that must be resolved before any real progress can be made: Palestine must realize the urgency or reconciliation and Israel must understand the danger in continuing to colonize the West Bank.

Until both sides can get their domestic issues figured out, Mitchell’s efforts will continue to be frustratingly futile.

Photo from Brooks Foreign Policy Review

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