We all know that everyday activities require lists: shopping lists, to do lists, laundry lists… The list goes on. We also know that when something substantial happens it is in the human genetic code (scientifically proven) to make a list for why it happened, failed or succeeded. In other words, lists are an inevitable fact of life. And with the start of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the world was inundated with lists. There are lists telling us why there will be peace, why there won’t be peace, why there should be peace, why there shouldn’t be peace. Lists, my friends, are everywhere.
With that I present the top three lists surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the new direct negotiations, with some comments.
And the drum roll please?
- No more photo ops, please – while I agree that the US is biased, I do not think that the Obama Administration is interested in empty talk. Time will tell though.
- The United States is not evenhanded – Absolutely true and undeniable. The challenge of these negotiations will be getting Israel to make concessions without external pressure.
- Israeli colonization of Palestinian land continues – This could be a massive issue on or after September 26 when the current construction freeze is set to end.
- Negotiations supersede accountability – Meaning that negotiations will take place without Israel being held responsible for the Flotilla or the Gaza war and without being pushed to enforce the terms of previous agreements.
- No terms of reference – Like settlements, this will be a major issue as Israel will only be interested in talking about its security requirements. It would not be surprising if talks broke down before the parties even started talking about the tough issues.
- No time line – While there is no official timeline, I have the feeling that 1 year is the unofficial timeline that will be held.
- Can a leopard change his spots – A question that I have already touched upon, is Netanyahu actually willing to push for peace or, like Bibi circa 1998, is this simply a ploy for the media?
- Increased U.S. military aid to and cooperation with Israel make it less likely to negotiate in good faith – Same as #2?
- All the parties are not at the negotiating table – Again something that I have mentioned. Real Palestinian peace cannot be achieved without Hamas and real Israeli peace cannot be achieved without Syria, Iran and Lebanon.
- Negotiations help Israel mitigate its growing international isolation – If Israel is negotiating in good faith, I have no problem with the mitigation of Israeli isolation. The rest of the world should welcome a peace-making Israel. Though if Israel is simply using peace talks to escape isolation, it runs the risk of becoming more of a pariah state.
Barbara Slavin gives us “5 Reason the MidEast Talks Aren’t Hopeless”
- [tweetmeme] The outlines of a settlement have been clear for years – The general idea has been clear for years, but the devil is in the details. It has been ‘clear’ that peace will be based on the 1967 borders, but the apartheid wall and growing settlements are creating facts on the ground that are changing what is ‘clear’
- Both sides would benefit from a settlement. – True, but there is no immediate benefit for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, though there is significant long-term benefit. Furthermore, peace means a painful withdrawal of nearly 500,000 settlers from Palestinian land.
- West Bank Palestinians have made progress creating the institutions of a state – True again, but Salam Fayyad’s state building has been severely limited to mainly the Ramallah area and does not include any work in area C – which covers 60% of the West Bank. Furthermore, there has been no progress in Gaza.
- The Arab League has endorsed the talks – but this is ultimately a Palestinian decision. The Arab League is only lending legitimacy to an illegitimate Palestinian government.
- The Obama administration is committed to making these talks work – While true, the Obama administration is not committed to putting any real pressure on Israel – something that is necessary for real movement towards peace.
Americans For Peace Now has likewise added “Top 6 Bogus Arguments for Opposing Extension of the Settlement Moratorium (or for Adding Loopholes)”
- Politically, Netanyahu cannot extend the moratorium and survive – While I think that this argument is overblown, Netanyahu will have some domestic (read: in Palestine) unrest if the freeze is continued. I personally am hoping that an extension does bring down the extreme right of the Israeli government.
- Settlement “Blocs – meaning that there are settlements that will inevitably be part of Israel after a peace deal. These blocs should be allowed to continue construction. This is ridiculous until after final borders have been agreed upon. Until then, all construction should be frozen.
- Natural Growth – meaning that settlements should be allowed to grow organically. The problem lies in what is considered natural growth. It isn’t outrageous to think that the definition of ‘natural growth’ would be fudged to increase the rate of settlement expansion.
- Building inside, but not expanding, settlements – Building inside of settlement is equally insulting and counterproductive as expanding settlements. It would mean that such settlements would be more difficult to withdraw from, creating more facts on the ground. Meanwhile, it is still Palestinian land.
- Already Approved Construction – A settlement freeze is meant to create trust and to give peace a chance. Even this kind of construction is undermining this effort, making the entire moratorium useless. Furthermore, there are thousands of units already approved, meaning such an exception would be disastrous.
- There are no subsidies or incentives – Unfortunately, there are significant financial benefits provided to settlers from the Israeli government. APN covers this one well – “Today, it is correct to say that there are no subsidies in place defined as especially for settlements. Instead there is a system of incentives in place for communities that Israel defines as “preferred development areas” – and the various lists of these areas (different ministries use different lists) have included, at least up until this point, not only parts of the Galilee and the Negev, but the majority of West Bank settlements as well.“
And there you have it. The list of the top three lists about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Undoubtedly there are more, including, probably, a list remind Bibi to pick up his dry-cleaning.
Photo from Idea Champions