And so it begins again. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have sat down in the same room and started talking. It’s easy to assume that like each of the previous four times that has been triumphantly announced, this too will collapse. But if these talks can last the summer, I think they’ll result in an interim deal between the sides. Here’s why (and why I don’t think it’s a good thing):
1. The Negotiator Returns
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is once again in the talks, and that means much of the hard work is done. She already held extensive negotiations with the Palestinians back in 2008.
One of the Palestinian demands has been to start off from where talks ended before, and Livni effectively gives them that. Plus, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew that when he gave her that role. So while he may publicly have real concerns about the surrender, er… concessions, made by the previous Israeli leadership, he has shown his openness by tabbing Livni.
An article from Yedioth Ahronoth reported that an American politician said the sides have already put everything on the table, at least when and how they’ll talk about it, including Jerusalem. There’s just not much left of the big topics to discuss.
2. Border Pressure
The same article said US Secretary of State John Kerry, the mediator in the talks, thinks Israel can retain 85 percent of the settlements.
The Palestinians have made border demands and just aren’t budging. It all depends on if Israel will break enough.
So when the mediator is making predictions, I think that speaks volumes about how far Israel is willing to go.
3. Concrete Steps
Israel has so far proven itself very willing to make sacrifices for peace. They are releasing terrorists as part of the deal to just talk.
And perhaps more importantly, the Israeli cabinet already approved a referendum on a deal, if one is reached. This gives Netanyahu political cover: It’s really up to the Israeli public to vote and decide.
Last, the nine-month timeline for the talks puts real pressure to finish. Neither side wants to look like they’re the reason for failure. And Barack Obama is perhaps the US President least emotionally connected to Israel in decades. He’ll make sure they make their best offer.
The Palestinians also have concerns. The Arab Spring/Winter/Summer is running wild and the whole region is unstable. There is a risk that they could get caught in that. Plus, the Americans are tired. If there’s no progress here, they might cut funding to the Palestinians permanently.
Meanwhile, the Saudis have their own concerns to spend on and Europe is ever on the financial brink. With Mahmoud Abbas’ political rivals in Gaza weak as their allies keep falling and the future uncertain, now is the best time to get what they can.
4. Why I’m Concerned
First, G-d specifically gave Israel their land. It’s not theirs to give away.
Second, the whole thing is doomed already. Notice I didn’t put peace on the ground as a reason for expecting a deal. That’s because it’s not there.
We’ve seen this before, back in the 1990s and in Gaza. Israel withdrew from territory and pulled their army out and terrorists gained power.
Remember crazy Al-Qaeda-linked groups are flocking to the south in neighboring Sinai and the north in neighboring Syria. They very well could impact the West Bank and Gaza.
Abbas’ regime still praises terrorists; it still claims all of Israel. It just doesn’t officially back violence. But if that’s the background, what’s to stop the people from carrying it out – once a “peace” deal gives them opportunity?
The Palestinians don’t crave peace – hundreds protested the renewal of talks. Until then, any deal is a mistake. And one nine months from now is a big one.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 1, 2013)