Peace Talks Resume, No Other Changes Expected

What are the Vegas odds that these two leaders can bring anything but disappointment to direct talks?

By now you have probably heard the announcement that direct negotiations are set to resume between Palestine and Israel.  While Clinton and the rest of the US team seems optimistic that a deal can be reached within a year to end the Israeli occupation and to create a viable Palestinian state, it is difficult to find anyone else with that much hope.  As I have written before, I don’t think a peace deal can be reached without certain major steps by both Israel and Palestine.  Furthermore, while these direct talks go no where, it might be time to start thinking about one democratic state.

As for the talks themselves, there are probably some who consider the resumption of direct talks to be a major breakthrough.  For those, I would direct you (see MEI too) to Stephen Walt (I know, huge anti-Semite):

I wish I could be more optimistic about this latest development, but I see little evidence that a meaningful deal is in the offing.

Why do I say this? Three reasons.

[tweetmeme] 1. There is no sign that the Palestinians are willing to accept less than a viable, territorially contiguous state in the West Bank (and eventually, Gaza), including a capital in East Jerusalem and some sort of political formula (i.e., fig-leaf) on the refugee issue. By the way, this outcome supposedly what the Clinton and Bush adminstrations favored, and what Obama supposedly supports as well.

2. There is no sign that Israel’s government is willing to accept anything more than a symbolic Palestinian “state” consisting of a set of disconnected Bantustans, with Israel in full control of the borders, air space, water supplies, electromagnetic spectrum. etc. Prime Minister Netanyahu hasmade it clear that this is what he means by a “two-state solution,” and he has repeatedly declared that Israel intends to keep all of Jerusalem and maybe a long-term military presence in the Jordan River valley. There are now roughly 500,000 Israeli Jews living outside the 1967 borders, and it is hard to imagine any Israeli government evacuating a significant fraction of them. Even if Netanyahu wanted to be more forthcoming, his coalition wouldn’t let him make any meaningful concessions. And while the talks drag on, the illegal settlements will continue to expand.

3. There is no sign that the U.S. government is willing to put meaningful pressure on Israel. We’re clearly willing to twist Mahmoud Abbas’ arm to the breaking point (which is why he’s agreed to talks, even as Israel continues to nibble away at the territory of the future Palestinian state), but Obama and his Middle East team have long since abandoned any pretense of bringing even modest pressure to bear on Netanyahu. Absent that, why should anyone expect Bibi to change his position?

I don’t really have much to add.  I am not expecting much from these talks, though I would love to be proved wrong.  Only time will tell.

On an unrelated note I will be posting only sporadically for the next two weeks, as I am taking a bit of break to get some things sorted here in Ramallah.  Until then, my posts will be heavy on the quotations and light on new analysis.

Photo from Safe Democracy

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