Israeli-Palestinian Pre-Negotiation Round-Up
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: