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Israeli-Palestinian Pre-Negotiation Round-Up

August 31, 2010

As everyone knows by now, Secretary Clinton and the White House are gearing up for direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. She spent the day today in bilateral consultations with various parties including Nasser Judeh of Jordan and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Tony Blair among others.

Despite my doubts about the peace process due to the political climate here in the U.S., the question mark about Hamas’ role and my sneaking suspicion that Benjamin Netanyahu is not committed to ending the Occupation, I’ve decided I am going to keep an open mind and hope for the best. Clearly Secretary Clinton can play a very positive role in the negotiations and it goes without saying that I certainly don’t at all doubt her commitment to a fair and just resolution of the conflict. Unfortunately, it appears some have upped the ante with unhelpful rhetoric geared towards creating division in Israeli society. Worse still, Hamas has already begun trying to sabotage the peace efforts with a deadly attack against four Israelis in the West Bank. That is unacceptable and tragic. Unfortunately, some are trying to turn the sabotage into political gain rather than staying focused on the endgame.

Here is a round-up of some of the commentary about the pending negotiations. I’ve taken them from different sources and they represent different views- both positive and negative, liberal and conservative, pragmatist and optimist:

~Stephen Walt over at FP is not very optimistic about the talks, which should come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with his views on this issue.

~On a more positive note, Martin Indyk (former Amb. to Israel) sees some hope for a breakthrough.

~The neocons are of course worried about the rights of the Jewish settlers despite the fact that the continued illegal settlements make achieving a viable two state solution less and less likely.

~And here is an article that almost made me fall out of my chair- the NYT actually gave some op-ed space on Sunday to an actual Palestinian American, my friend Ali Abunimah. It’s very rare for the Palestinian point of view to see the light of day in the mainstream media except the occasional interview with Abbas or Fayed. Abunimah notes what many are thinking but not saying- that any negotiations which ignore Hamas are unlikely to bear fruit. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know the best way to deal with Hamas in all of this but he does make some very good points about our role in the peace process with Northern Ireland and our eventual (and at times very, very reluctant) willingness to bring the I.R.A and Sein Fein to the negotiating table with Great Britain. Of course, there are important key differences between the two situations but I think that Northern Ireland can be instructive.

~Here’s a rather depressing article about the low expectations that precede the talks. Of course, politically speaking, to raise expectations sky high would be a mistake also (you know, kinda like Obama did during his Cairo speech?).

~As expected, Alan Dershowitz serves as the Voice of AIPAC and channels Netanyahu by regurgitating his same old Lidudnik rhetoric– he tries, just as Bibi frequently has, to link the peace process to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Never mind Iran is apparently no closer to obtaining them than they were a decade ago. Quite a few people have opined that Bibi may be using the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran for leverage (in Israel’s favor) in these negotiations. The notion that Israel needs more leverage in these talks is pretty laughable given the U.S. is hardly an objective mediator, but rather sees itself as protector of Israeli interests. Of all the commentary I have seen over the past few days, Dershowitz’ is the most cynical and damaging- he is the perfect example of the old guard way of thinking about Israel-Palestine and it’s high time we started to hear some new voices. All he offers is the usual double-speak: saying he wants peace while simultaneously arguing against it.

~An article by Robert Malley and Peter Harling in Foreign Affairs argues that Obama should break with the past and not apply the same old solutions to problems in the Middle East because the region has changed, as have some of the people (aka the “Arab street” involved.

~Lara Friedman cuts through the misleading talk about settlements and points out that despite the so-called moratorium, the number of Jewish settlers in settlements beyond the Green Line in the West Bank has actually increased. In other words, the settlement “freeze” was hardly a concession and little more than a thaw.


Here are some photos from some of Secretary Clinton’s meetings today:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L) at the State Department in Washington, August 31, 2010

S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a bileteral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, on August 31, 2010

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. HillaryFan permalink
    August 31, 2010 9:18 pm

    Awesome round-up.

    Have you heard anything from J Street- have they released any statements?

    One thing is for sure, Secy Clinton has her work cut out for her b/c it seems like at times neither side really is willing to do the necessary work for peace- it’s all a lot of finger pointing and posturing.

  2. vCAL permalink
    August 31, 2010 9:23 pm

    All the good for you Hillary, you’re doing all you can to restore peace around the world! power to you!

  3. September 1, 2010 1:07 am

    The peace talks can only succeed if the US is an honest broker. Unfortunately, Obama ha revealed himself as a fanatical Israel-hater. The most likely outcome of the peace talks will be another devastating round of violence.

    • September 1, 2010 5:29 am

      The peace talks can only succeed if people stop spewing factually-suspect propaganda for political purposes. Propaganda like “Obama has revealed himself as a fanatical Israel-hater.”

      An honest broker means that some pressure has to be applied to both parties and unfortunately, given that Israel is the occupier which controls almost all of the country, including access/movement to and from the territories and West Bank, some difficult concessions on their part may have to be made. The Palestinians are the weaker party in this negotiation, further weakened by a fragile political coalition at home and the fact that Hamas hates the PLO/Fatah and is trying to undermine and sabotage the talks. However, some people see any pressure on Israel as anti-Israel animus and that simply isn’t the case.

      Every POTUS going back decades, both Dem and GOP, have had to lean on Israel at one time or another, with George Herbert Walker Bush /James Baker putting perhaps the most pressure on them. But no one ran around calling them anti-Israel or antisemitic. Gee, I wonder what the difference here [with this POTUS] is?

      • September 1, 2010 5:23 pm

        If Israel is vastly stronger than its enemies as you claim, what is the point of peace negotiations? Why don’t they just crush their enemies?

    • Thain permalink
      September 1, 2010 7:36 am

      Hey TLOS- I love your anti-Arab, anti-left, anti-Obama website. I particularly love how you refer to Obama by his middle name “Hussein” because that must mean he’s one of those evil terrorists right? His name is Hussein so he MUST be biased against the never-do-wrong Israelis. Oh, don’t mind that most of his negotiating team is about as pro-Israel as you can get, with quite a few holding dual Israeli and American citizenship. Nope, Obama hates Israel.

      It’s one thing to not like Obama it’s another to spread propaganda. But propaganda is so much easier to spread than actual facts. So much easier to conflate Hamas with AQ with Barack Hussein Obama with Fatah with Park 51 with 9/11 and with all that is scary and terrible in this world. It must suck to be so angry and afraid all the time.

      People like you give the radical elements of the pro-Israel movement a bad name.

  4. September 2, 2010 9:48 am

    Hi TLOS- when I refer to Israel having the “stronger” negotiating position of the two parties I am not referring to brute strength. Israel benefits from it’s privileged position visa vi the US and from the political pressure to not expect Israel to make any real concessions – as we saw with the settlement dispute last year and the reaction to it.

    In terms of crushing enemies, even though Israel has one of the most elite and well-trained military forces in the world and despite having a huge arsenal of nukes, crushing enemies is not as easy as it sounds, as the US knows- we are not always talking about nation states as enemies but amorphous groups and organizations who operate irrespective of borders and often without the formal sanction of their government. If it were like the old days when soldiers merely lined up across a field from one another and the results were often determined by which army had the superior equipment, numbers and training, that would be one thing, but modern warfare is very different- something which the US has become slow to accept.

    In addition, the application of brute force to “crush” enemies does not always bring about the desired result and thus restraint is sometimes called for.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between the PA and groups like Hamas. To view Abbas and Fayed as Israel’s enemies is a mistake in my view- an example that demonstrates this is how both the US and the IDF have been working around the clock to help train PA security forces to crack down on extremism and terrorism and the IDF has said that the PA has been really stepping up to the plate in this regard. Unfortunately for political reasons, the rhetoric is such that it tends to conflate all Palestinians as a monolithic group, which is unhelpful for those trying to understand the conflict.

  5. June 22, 2013 3:00 pm

    They both have wonderful smiles.

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