Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place
Now that the Obama administration has finally gotten Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going after a year and a half of stalemate (a plan that could quickly fall apart in a day’s time if something drastic like…uh hum….more settlement building is approved), analysts from around the world are starting to ask if the meetings can produce anything worthwhile.
The short answer is no. If anyone thinks that a magic formula for peace is going to be struck through shuttle diplomacy- jargon for indirect “proximity talks”- than you will be sadly mistaken.
The good news is that both sides have agreed to address key issues of the conflict instead of arguing about useless formalities. Issues like settlements on occupied Palestinian land, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, borders, and security will apparently be the focus (although I’m not so sure how this could possibly be discussed without negotiating face-to-face).
Yet even with this supposed “diplomatic breakthrough” now in the works (to be fair, it is a welcomed change from the last 18 months), this development is still a step backwards from what have traditionally been direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, the Oslo Accords of 1993, and the Camp David Summit of 2000 all involved the active participation of key political players. But now in 2010, the international community is forced to resort to an impersonal method for resolving the same-old disputes that have destroyed Mideast peacemaking for six decades in the making.
I hate to the be the bearer of bad news, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not exactly a trustworthy and constructive partner, and his religious coalition is the sort of government that you would expect to find in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And then there was this revelation that I had about a day or two ago.
In the past, I’ve expressed a sense of urgency about Netanyahu’s government and my hope that he would someday smarten up and drop the extreme right-wing members of his coalition…especially if he wants to keep his job amid a frustratingly slow moving peace process. Doing so would not only pave the way for a new governing coalition with a much more centrist and pragmatic partner, but would also severely weaken Netanyahu’s dependence on pro-settler Jewish groups.
While I still support the idea of the Israeli P.M. dumping his more radical allies in the government, I’m now starting to question whether this move would actually change things.
Don’t get me wrong here; a more moderate government would be a fine contrast from the current administration in Israel (most of whom are all too eager to sabotage peace talks before they even start). Likewise, a more centric-oriented coalition would be a great parallel to the P.A.’s moderate leadership under Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. The chances for a successful Israeli-Palestinian dialogue- perhaps leading to direct negotiations- would improve quite significantly at the executive level.
But what about the bigger picture…that of the Israeli electorate? Poll after poll in Israel has consistently confirmed the Israeli public’s endorsement of the current status-quo. And why not? The Israeli economy is one of the best in the world, security has been tight, and the suicide-bombings that used to terrorize Israeli cities on a daily-basis are now virtually nonexistent.
Surely the Israelis want peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians. Each Israeli Government has been trying to accomplish this goal since the state’s creation in 1948. But at the same time, Israelis don’t want to jeopardize or risk destroying the type of peaceful environment that they have been accustomed too over the last three years.
Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of the Economist*