The Middle East muddle

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to conduct direct negotiations with the US.


Editorial August 22, 2010

In a sign of the intractability of the Israel-Palestine conflict, even a hesitant acceptance between the two sides that they will hold talks is being hailed as a major breakthrough. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to conduct direct negotiations with the US and other major powers on September 2. This will be the first time in nearly two years that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership will talk to each other. The goals of this summit are lofty. The US, European Union and United Nations hope they will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state within one year. Given the current hostility emanating from both sides, this is an unrealistic proposition. The Palestinians have already said they will pull out of the negotiations if Israel does not extend a moratorium on building new settlements, which is due to lapse on September 26.

US President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell has made it clear that Hamas will not be part of any talks. Since any compromise will not be acceptable to Hamas, and they can be expected to use violence to derail any progress, these talks seem doomed from the start. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has already declared that his country’s security is his chief concern. Since he knows Hamas will not agree to halt all rocket attacks into Israel, Netanyahu is going into the talks knowing they are destined to fail.

Even without the Hamas issue, there are two areas of concern that make an agreement unlikely. The Palestinian Authority is still pushing for the “right of return”, which would allow Palestinian refugees and their heirs to move back into territories that are now part of Israel. Israel will never allow this as it would mean they have a Muslim-majority population in a state that is explicitly Jewish. President Mahmoud Abbas will have to give up this demand. Israel, meanwhile, will not only have to halt all settlement construction, it will also have to dismantle some existing settlements in the West Bank. The US, meanwhile, if it hopes to be an honest broker, will have to play the role of a disinterested party. Even this may not be enough but it would at least be a start.

Published in The Express Tribune,  August 23rd, 2010.

COMMENTS (1)

ghj | 11 years ago | Reply The negotiations do not need the US as an "honest broker." Israel will not risk its existence without US SUPPORT, not even-handedness. Get the Palestinians to give up their "right of return," give Israel SECURE borders, end terrorism, end rocket fire, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and demilitarize. Israel has torn down settlements and made compromises before, and it will again. The Palestinians will then have their state. I speak as the parent of 3 Israelis, one of whom is going into the IDF soon.
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