The Peace Talks are Too Limited

With peace, Palestine is not enough

A couple of days ago I penned an article calling for the expansion of the current Israel-Palestine negotiations to include other relevant actors, namely Lebanon, Syria, Hamas and Iran.  The crux of the argument was simple: the aforementioned states will still pose a threat to Israel even after an agreement with Palestine, thus forcing Israel to ‘ask’ for more security arrangements (see Palestinian concessions) in the Palestinian negotiations.  Therefore it is necessary to include all the important actors and push for a comprehensive peace.  And I am far from being the only one calling for the inclusion of all parties.

While I mentioned Thomas Friedman’s article calling for a resurrection of the Arab Peace Initiative, I failed to mention the Flints, whom I rediscovered buried deep in my inbox.  In addition to arguing that the US position is flawed regarding Israeli settlements and ‘moderate Arabs,’ the Flint and Hillary Mann duo believe that the peace talks need to include more parties:

First, several parties that need to be represented at the table are not there.  This is purely an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

[tweetmeme] –Syria—a nation-state with a significant portion of its territory under Israeli occupation since 1967, the provenance of which not even the most right-leaning Israeli politicians and commentators dispute—is not included.  Syria was left out, even though, according to the Arab League peace initiative, Israel will not get comprehensive peace with all Arab nations until it has returned all of the Arab territory it currently occupies and has resolved its disputes will all of its immediate neighbors—including Syria and Lebanon, along with the Palestinians.

–As to the Palestinian side, a number of commentators have already pointed out—correctly, in our view—the absurdity of advancing negotiations when the Palestinian interlocutor does not represent all of the major Palestinian factions and communities and almost certainly could not “sell” to the Palestinian people any agreement it might actually negotiate with Israel.  The most glaring deficiency, in this regard, is the exclusion of HAMAS.  We recognize that HAMAS may not want to be a direct party to negotiations with Israel, and has accepted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the appropriate negotiator for the Palestinian side.  But HAMAS has also long advocated a reorganization of the PLO to encompass important Palestinian factions—like HAMAS—not currently included.  And, HAMAS has made clear that, in its view, any peace agreement negotiated by the PLO should be submitted for the Palestinian people’s approval or rejection in a genuinely representative referendum.  None of these conditions is in place—and the Fatah-dominated PLO that is negotiating almost certainly could not “sell” to the Palestinian people any agreement it might actually conclude with the Netanyahu government.

–Moreover, for a “Middle East peace process” to have any chance of working, the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be at least an indirect party.  Of course, Iranian officials have said over a number of years that, while Tehran respects the prerogative of Arab parties to negotiate an end to their conflicts with Israel, the Islamic Republic is not prepared to recognize a Zionist state.  But the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace holds potentially profound implications for the balance of power across the Middle East as a whole.  The interests of key Iranian allies—among them Syria, HAMAS, and Hizballah—and of the Islamic Republic itself could be deeply affected by the nature of an Arab-Israeli accommodation.  That is why Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, see here andhere, is advocating a genuinely comprehensive settlement—encompassing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks along with the Palestinian track, with HAMAS playing an important role on the Palestinian side, and with the indispensability of Iran to a truly regional settlement recognized from the outset. [my emphasis in bold]

Photo From Race for Iran

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