Peace at Last?
|Onsdag, 8. September 2010 6 kommentti(a)||
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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