Peace at Last?

Onsdag, 8. September 2010     6 kommentti(a)
Timo Behr
forskare - forskningsprogrammet Europeiska Unionen

Following a two years hiatus and a considerable amount of US arms-twisting, negotiations for a final status agreement resumed last week in Washington DC. Flanked by President Obama, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Fatah’s Mahmud Abbas promised to negotiate in good faith with the aim of striking a historic compromise within one year. But what are the chances that they will succeed where their predecessors have failed?

The prospects look daunting. Grand gestures aside, both parties have come to the table with a long list of preconditions. Netanyahu, time and again, has asserted that any settlement needs to be build around three principles: the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” (deflecting the “right of return”); the establishment of proper security measures (a euphemism for an IDF presence in the Jordan valley); and a definitive end to the conflict (to forestall future Arab claims). Abbas has balked at these conditions, demanding instead an indefinite end to settlement building and respect for the Palestinian right of return.

Setting maximal goals is of course a common negotiation tactic. But to come to a solution, both leaders will be forced to compromise. Most analysts expect potential trade-offs to evolve around the so-called “Clinton Parameters”: land swaps to resolve the borders issue; the relinquishment of all but a symbolic right of return; Israel’s acceptance of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; and perhaps a temporary IDF presence in the Jordan Valley.

To help both parties make these painful concessions, the Obama administration has chosen a new approach: this time US officials are involved from the very start in negotiations; all difficult issues are to be negotiated in a package deal to force both sides to compromise; and both sides have agreed to a one-year deadline. But will this be enough to conclude the deal?

The problem is that even if Abbas and Netanyahu can be cajoled to agree on a US-mediated package, it is far from clear that they will be able to make it stick. Hamas has already shown its determination to spoil any agreement to which it is not a party through the use of violence. And a skeptical Israeli public is unlikely to endorse painful concessions in return for a partial peace settlement with a truncated Palestinian state. To convince both sides that their concessions will be rewarded, two things need to happen.

First, the US needs to encourage other regional players to chip into a comprehensive package based on the Arab Peace Initiative. This could sweeten the deal for Israel, by increasing potential gains – especially if countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia agreed to end their support for organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. The quid pro quo would be for Israel to accept Palestinian rule in East Jerusalem and withdraw from the Golan Heights. Second, the US needs to work for Palestinian reconciliation – something it has not always done in the past. As Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak pointed out in a recent op-ed in the NY Times: “The Palestinians cannot make peace with a house divided.” Indeed, with Gaza excluded, any potential agreement seems doomed to fail.

Only by combining carrots and sticks in such a way – drying up support for Israel’s radical opponents while offering them a role in a future Palestinian state – do current negotiations stand a reasonable chance of securing a final deal that is met with public approval. Any attempt to force a bilateral and partial settlement down the throat of a reluctant Palestinian and Israeli public is likely to condemn current talks to the same fate than earlier rounds. Ignoring this fact would mean certain failure for the “Obama approach” in the Middle East.

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21.9.2010, Kenneth Sikorski
 

The "Obama Approach" thus far, has been a mixture of naive, opportunistic and bumbling attempts at trying to create inertia to a process/situation that has no interested players.

Besides, the moment Israel grants Abbas everything he wants, is the moment Abbas losses it all. No offense, but more than likely this truism passes over your head, due to what you have written here.

Here's another pickle for you. How can Hamas be expected to enter into an "honest reconciliation" with al-Fatah, knowing full well that in doing so, it means their forced recognition of the Jewish state of Israel (or even just Israel), though doing so means their tacit approval in turning their back on, and /or the dissolving of their movement whose own charter is based upon the forgeries of the Elders of Zion that demands the total destruction of Israel?

Face facts. Abbas is an incredibly weak, ineffectual leader who is looking over his shoulder at not only the Hamas, but potential political opponents from within his own ranks who make Abbas look like a moderate.

Another point. If Israel's enemies are not taking the current US administration seriously, (they all mock the US behind closed doors and openly through their foreign policy statements and actions) why do you think that Israel would be so willing to take the US seriously?

But this is the main reason why no peace has been able to be achieved, regardless of how many peace processes, or initiatives are thrown at it. Until the Arabs give up on the dream of having it all, the Arabs' war against Israel will continue.

22.9.2010, Timo Behr
 

Some reactions to your comments, which oddly have little to do with what I have written:

1) Abbas is weak: I stated as much, which is the reason that he will never be able to force a final deal on a divided Palestinian body politic. This is exactly why he will need the backing of the Arab world and bring Hamas into the political process. Else, there never will be a deal.

2) Obama’s approach has been bungled: Fair enough. His attempts have been just as amateurish as those of other US Presidents before him. So your conclusion is to give up?

3) Hamas is a bunch of blood-thirsty maniacs that cannot be engaged: Why then is it that some prominent Israelis like Efraim Halevy, the former director of Mossad, or Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, are calling for engaging Hamas? Surely these are not starry-eyed idealists! Face it there are only two alternatives: Israel can retake Gaza by force or hope for some negotiated settlement. I take it that you favor a new confrontation regardless of its consequences?

4) Arabs have to give up their dream to “have it all”: This is simply wrong! Polls have shown again and again that there is a vast majority of both Palestinians and Israelis that support a two state solution. Assigning all the blame for the conflict to one party is unhelpful and malicious.

23.9.2010, Kenneth Sikorski
 

On the contrary, my comments were focusing on the "detached from reality" type of thinking that passes for normal in the realm of many European and US liberal leaning think tanks. No offense intended. Let me first grapple with your responses, startig from No.4:

You said: "Arabs have to give up their dream to “have it all”: This is simply wrong! Polls have shown again and again that there is a vast majority of both Palestinians and Israelis that support a two state solution. Assigning all the blame for the conflict to one party is unhelpful and malicious."

Eh..while polls in Israel do matter, since when do polls matter in a non-democratic society, or at least in a society with only the window dressings of one ? Former US president Jimmy Carter might cling to the fiction that the Palestinians have a democratically elected and functioning government and society, but anyone truly wanting to test whether that be true, need only to stand with a sign in Ramallah voicing their approval for a "Jewish state of Israel".

My comments about Arabs still wanting to have it all, was directed towards those Arabs who control the levers of power and by default, the direction of Palestinian society. Neither Abbas, nor those waiting in the wings to take power once Abbas leaves the scene, are anywhere near accepting the end of their conflict with Israel than Hamas. It matters little what the average Palestinian wants or doesn't want, when it's the top eschelon of society that calls the shots, literally.

You said: "Abbas is weak: I stated as much, which is the reason that he will never be able to force a final deal on a divided Palestinian body politic. This is exactly why he will need the backing of the Arab world and bring Hamas into the political process. Else, there never will be a deal."

Again, my comments go to the heart of the dilemma in trying to talk peace with an openly hostile enemy that refuses to end hostilities, one doesn't makes peace with one's enemies, but only with one's former enemies. This is lost on many who treat the Arabs' conflict with Israel as an anomaly in world history, according to which, this is the only situation where a hostile party that speaks openly of genocide of the other is courted. Pure insanity.

You said: " Obama’s approach has been bungled: Fair enough. His attempts have been just as amateurish as those of other US Presidents before him. So your conclusion is to give up?"

Why not also add: "as well as European governments and the collective EU body" ? Successive European governments and EU bodies have failed to hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions as they have of the authortarian state of Belarus. Treating the Palestinian Arabs differently is contemptable, if not racist, in a "humanitarian" sort of way.

My conclusion is not to give up, but don't be stupid and naive. When the Arab leadership show the signs of ending their incitement of Jews and Israel in their media, schools and mosques, and in the public sector, start respecting human rights of the minorty and look to no longer wanting to be a danger to their own people, then, and only then, the Israelis can actually point to something positive to work with.

You said: "Hamas is a bunch of blood-thirsty maniacs that cannot be engaged: Why then is it that some prominent Israelis like Efraim Halevy, the former director of Mossad, or Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, are calling for engaging Hamas? Surely these are not starry-eyed idealists! Face it there are only two alternatives: Israel can retake Gaza by force or hope for some negotiated settlement. I take it that you favor a new confrontation regardless of its consequences?"

Surely you don't want me to post my list of top generals, Mossad figures and politicians who would beg to differ with yours? That will get us nowhere. I'm for an eventual settlement, but not one that places the lives of the people of Israel in danger because the west needs to "do something". How's that Cyprus situation working out, or is the Basque nation anywhere near achieving their goals?

Trying to "force a situation" on one party (Israel) while the other side (Hamas and members of al-Fatah) are quite frank in their openess for the genocidal of the Jewish people, is pure foolishness, and only serves to whet their appitite that they will eventually acheive their goals.

Again, seeing that you chose not to answer this the first time around, I pose it to you once more: " How can Hamas be expected to enter into an "honest reconciliation" with al-Fatah, knowing full well that in doing so, it means their forced recognition of the Jewish state of Israel (or even just Israel), though doing so means their tacit approval in turning their back on, and /or the dissolving of their movement whose own charter is based upon the forgeries of the Elders of Zion that demands the total destruction of Israel?"

Cheers/Kenneth

6.10.2010, Kenneth Sikorski
 

I'll take your silence as a mea culpa.

8.10.2010, Timo Behr
 

The reason that I did not answer you (as well as the source of my original puzzlement) is that I have clearly stated my position on this issue. As I pointed out in my original post, in my mind a combination of pressure (for some reason you chose to ignore this part of my argument) and incentives is the most promising way to achieve some progress towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation (and hence a settlement that can stick).
I think both of us would agree that Israel has little incentives to accept (what it regards as) painful concessions in return for peace with only half of Palestine. Indeed, if you take the “land for peace” formula seriously such a course of action would admittedly make little sense. So if we want to get to a two state solution based on the 1967 borders (I assume we are on the same page here? Please confirm), then there is little way around Hamas.
Now, I fully agree with you that Hamas is an unsavory and dangerous organization whose official goals are not conducive to peace and whose use of terrorist tactics ought to be condemned in the strongest terms. The question is whether a part of its leadership and support base could ever be cajoled into accepting an Israeli state. Here, is where we differ. You argue that its radical ideology prevents it from ever accepting an Israeli state. In fact, you are hinting that in your mind ALL of the Palestinians (if not the whole of the Arab world) continue to be bent on Israel’s destruction.
The second part of your argument I find objectionable – and I have already stated my reasons for this. Your idea that there is some sort of correlation between democracy and the accuracy of opinion polls is interesting, but there is little evidence for that. Afterall, we are talking about anonymous polls conducted by professional pollsters. Quite why people living in an undemocratic state should be more inclined to lie to pollsters than in democratic societies is unclear. That leaves Hamas.
We could of course endlessly argue about whether noises from within Hamas that are calling for a dialogue with Israel and the US and that are endorsing the 1967 borders as “provisional borders” of a Palestinian state are credible and whether there are any differences between its leadership in Gaza and in exile, etc.
Your response predictably would be that all of these are diversion tactics to mislead the gullible and liberal (quite why liberal in your book is an insult I am uncertain) Europeans and a few equally naïve Americans and Israelis (including said former head of Mossad). Who knows, maybe you are right. But even if you are, this should not prevent us from attempting to change Hamas decision-making calculus by using a combination of threats and incentives. Sure that won’t be easy and might lead nowhere. But what options do you offer?
As far as I can see there are only two alternatives. A continuation of the status quo is likely to enable Hamas to further consolidate its position in Gaza and strengthen its most radical parts. This is distinctly not in Israel’s interest – surely you agree with that. The second option is for the IDF to reoccupy Gaza. The consequences of such an action in terms of innocent lives lost as well as the international outcry that is sure to follow make this an equally bad option for Israel. So which one is it going to be? Perhaps you care to state your position? I fear that your kind of argument leaves us stuck in the current precarious situation. Ironically, this is probably the worst of all worlds when it comes to Israel’s own security.
You say trying to force a solution on one reluctant party (Israel) is foolish. I am glad to see that you have taken on this part of my original argument. It leaves me with some hope that eventually you might also accept the second part of my argument. Namely that trying to impose a settlement on a divided and reluctant Palestinian side is equally foolish. Surely you need to both sides to come to a peace agreement that is worth its name.
Cheers, Timo

13.10.2010, Kenneth Sikorski
 

You said: "The reason that I did not answer you (as well as the source of my original puzzlement) is that I have clearly stated my position on this issue. As I pointed out in my original post, in my mind a combination of pressure (for some reason you chose to ignore this part of my argument) and incentives is the most promising way to achieve some progress towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation (and hence a settlement that can stick)."

The reason I chose to respond to you initially, was due to what I perceive to be the falacy in your argumentation, concerning the "supposed pressure on both sides translating into a lasting peace". Lets be honest here. Whenever "pressure being exerted on both sides" is mentioned, in reality, it means focusing squarely on Israel to see how much it's prepared to caugh up in order to satisfy whatever US president is sitting in office, and to a lesser extent "the Quartet".

You know that as well as I. While it "sounds good", it only means one thing, and one thing only, pressure on Israel. One only has to look at how the EU and the Obama admin. is reacting to Abbas unprofessional, unstatesmanlike behavior in crying foul over the Israelis building homes within their own settlements, all the while knowing full well that the Arabs are building EVERYWHERE throughout Judea and Samaria, and not one European government not the UN will ever hold them to task about it. Remember, it flows both ways.

(Note: Notice that the Euros nor Obama never once predicated a resuming of talks on the Arabs, at least even symbolically, recognizing Israel's Jewish character, instead they just focused on insisting on Israel's continuence of the moratorium on building. That's the way it always will go.)

You said: "I think both of us would agree that Israel has little incentives to accept (what it regards as) painful concessions in return for peace with only half of Palestine. Indeed, if you take the “land for peace” formula seriously such a course of action would admittedly make little sense. So if we want to get to a two state solution based on the 1967 borders (I assume we are on the same page here? Please confirm), then there is little way around Hamas."

More yet, Israel sees little incentive to accept painful concessions in light of the fact that the Arabs (read = clan leaders and influential thugs) have yet to give up on the idea of having it all. Yeah, I am for a two state solution, but not one in which the Arabs will uses any such arrangement as a launching pad for yet more designs on the Jewish state of Israel.

Why do you presume that Israel is better off in hoping for the best with a deal with an insincere "partner in peace", then realizing the reality on the ground, make calculations and adjustments for it? Why are Europeans so ready to talk business with known thugs and murderers, when the Belgian political elite can't even sit down with the Vlaams Belang, or the Swedish political elite with the Sweden Democrats?

I see a great hypocrisy here. Such foolishness leads people to seriously believe that all the Middle East problems, like with Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon etc. etc. hinge on the Israelis falling on their own sword for the sake of "world peace". Why does Europe in general, and the Obama admin in particular insist that the Israelis act more "Christ like" than these Christian nations?

You said: "Now, I fully agree with you that Hamas is an unsavory and dangerous organization whose official goals are not conducive to peace and whose use of terrorist tactics ought to be condemned in the strongest terms. The question is whether a part of its leadership and support base could ever be cajoled into accepting an Israeli state. Here, is where we differ. You argue that its radical ideology prevents it from ever accepting an Israeli state. In fact, you are hinting that in your mind ALL of the Palestinians (if not the whole of the Arab world) continue to be bent on Israel’s destruction."

First of all, you "appear" far to willing to dismiss the Islamic element to the Arabs conflict with Israel, that it's not an over all factor, but you do so in the face of imperical evidence to the contrary. Such Islamic antimosity towards the Jews can be seen in classical readings of the Koran, the Sunnah and in the Hadiths. Islamic inspired anti-Semitism rests at the core of their conflict with the Jewish state, you might say it's one of the more over looked areas in adressing the conflict. I suggest you look up Dr.Andrew Bostom, the Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism as a useful tool in understanding the breadth and depth of the phenomenon.

When discussing the intentions of the Arabs, whether or not they all are hostile towards Israel, one must only be concerned with those Arabs who hold the reigns to power and the keys to dispensing largesse. It's immaterial how many mom and pop families could care less about the conflict, and are more focused on their everyday lives (many are), but on the mindset of those who control that society. If incitement of the Jews is heard on radio, television, newspapers and in the schools and mosques.. then you must resign yourself to the fact that as a political entity, the Arabs have rather dark designs on the Jew.

You said: "The second part of your argument I find objectionable – and I have already stated my reasons for this. Your idea that there is some sort of correlation between democracy and the accuracy of opinion polls is interesting, but there is little evidence for that. Afterall, we are talking about anonymous polls conducted by professional pollsters. Quite why people living in an undemocratic state should be more inclined to lie to pollsters than in democratic societies is unclear. That leaves Hamas."

Read the above. What you find objectionable is either a misreading of what I have written or what you skipped over. A poll that gauges what a society is thinking, matters little in a society that doesn't really truly have a representative form of government. Yes people go to the polls and plop something in a box, so to in Saddam's Iraq. The level of intimidation within the PA administered areas is enough to quash any notion of a free and democratic "PA". It simply doesn't exist.

Besides, people vote along clan and tribal affiliations and upon which armed organization has the muscle to deliver what they need.

You simply can't compare both of these societies. While a poll in Israel favoing peace, might translate one day into a government that will reflect those wishes, the same cannot be said for the Arabs, no matter how many polls are taken that show a consistent majority that favors peace, because they do not have a true representative government. Period, it's not really anything to debate about.

You said: "We could of course endlessly argue about whether noises from within Hamas that are calling for a dialogue with Israel and the US and that are endorsing the 1967 borders as “provisional borders” of a Palestinian state are credible and whether there are any differences between its leadership in Gaza and in exile, etc.

Hey, just read their book, and you'll know them. The Koran, Sunna and Hadiths, as well as the Czarist forgery, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, as well as understanding the Islamic concept of the hudna (temporary ceasefire until enough strength is gained to contiue the fight) and you'll figure them out. I would say to the please stop playing with peoples lives, just because you have some peace itch to scratch, especially so when you (speaking of the parties promoting these intitiative) don't have to live with your proposals.

You said: "Your response predictably would be that all of these are diversion tactics to mislead the gullible and liberal (quite why liberal in your book is an insult I am uncertain) Europeans and a few equally naïve Americans and Israelis (including said former head of Mossad). Who knows, maybe you are right. But even if you are, this should not prevent us from attempting to change Hamas decision-making calculus by using a combination of threats and incentives. Sure that won’t be easy and might lead nowhere. But what options do you offer?"

Every time you engage with overt homicidal islamic fundamentalists, you throw them a life line, a ray of hope, that if they continue on as before, in spite of the occasional silence, the dhimmi will come around, eventually. It reinforces their interansigence, not soften it. As a "liberal" in the classic sense, I look to the Left as merely what they are, socialists, whether they be hard Marxist socialists, Trotskyite socialists, Leninite, Hitlerite, Mussonli, Fabian or just plain SDP, they're socialists. From the hard to soft tyranny, they're all
statists.

So yes, a "liberal", in the modern day sense of the word, meaning to me, a soft tyranny statist, is something that I find contemptable, and that since the majority of the think tanks that push this "solve the Israeli/Arab conflict and you're on the road to solving the rest of the ME's problems" are "liberal, it's already one stike against them.

My option for effecting the Arabs' conflict is this. Start treating the Arabs as equals, end the policy of looking through your fingers at their incitement of Israel and Jews, their anti-Semitism, their lack of concern for the civil rights of their own people, corruption and host of other things we take for granted from normal societies, and raise the bar.

We should enter into the same kind of arrangement the EU has with Belarus, I believe MEP, Hannu Takkula has been hammering away on the point for years. Start promoting his views on it. Any act of terror against Israel, will be treated as a war crime, with the EU leading the way in demanding Hamas and any other Arab faction leader responsible for war crimes to be brought to justice.
Don't even think about comparing the two sides here, I believe that I'm dealing with a person here who knows about International law, and you know darn well that Israel confers with international law experts before embarking on any military campaign, so there's no chance of Israel "going rogue" it's just not going to happen.

Applying pressure on Iran, backing the opposition, continually looking for a way to offset the regime to that it eventually fails and falls. Putting a tight crimp on the Saudis and their spreading of Wahhabism, having a no tolerance attitude with the OIC and its agenda for the Islamization of the west, nor of its own member states anti-Semitism nor its denial of Muslim anti-Semitism. these are just a few options.

You said: "You say trying to force a solution on one reluctant party (Israel) is foolish. I am glad to see that you have taken on this part of my original argument. It leaves me with some hope that eventually you might also accept the second part of my argument. Namely that trying to impose a settlement on a divided and reluctant Palestinian side is equally foolish. Surely you need to both sides to come to a peace agreement that is worth its name."

No it's foolish forcing something upon Israel (the only rational side to the conflict) that you would never ever allow to be forced upon yourselves. Europe is hypocritical as I have said in the above. There is no rush to end the conflict when one side is no where near being ready to do so. Each and every move by the Euros in trying to force ISrael into an untenable situation, only gives the Arabs more hope that eventually, they'll be able to finish off the job.

Cheers/Kenneth

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