Israeli Elections and Palestinian Negotiations
The American politician Tip O'Neill once famously observed "that all politics is local." Had O'Neill been an Israeli, he might have added: "but local politics often has international consequences." The as yet uncertain results of the Israeli election have considerable implications internationally. They suggest a movement toward the center and away from the extremes. This, in turn, makes it more likely that the Israeli government might have more flexibility in dealing with the Palestinian Authority and in moving toward a two-state solution. There is also some suggestion that the Palestinian Authority may be prepared to soften its refusal to sit down with the Israelis until after a total settlement freeze is agreed upon.
In September I spoke to President Abbas and suggested to him a formula for restarting negotiations: He would agree to sit down and begin negotiations without Israel having frozen settlements, with the understanding that only after he began good faith negotiations, would Israel initiate a settlement freeze. The plan also contemplated a quick and rough division of the West Bank into three areas: those that would almost certainly remain part of Israel; those that would almost certainly become part of a Palestinian state; and those that are reasonably in dispute. As to the first, there would be no limitation on building; but as to the second and third, a freeze would remain in effect until final borders were agreed upon, so long as the negotiations continued in good faith.
Abbas agreed to this formulation, after conferring with Saeb Erekat. He even signed a paper that set out this plan.
We both agreed that it was unlikely that negotiations would resume until after the Israeli election. And I said that I would reraise the issue at that time. So I am.
The current combination of factors—the centrist tilt of the Israeli election, the reelection of President Obama and the recognition by the United Nations of Palestine as an observer-state—makes this a propitious time for negotiations.
Resuming negotiations would send a powerful message to President Obama that Israel does indeed know its own best interests, since resolving the Israel-Palestine dispute, with assurances of Israel's security, is clearly in Israel's best interest. Most Israelis seem to agree with that assessment, as polls and election results strongly suggest. Most Palestinians also seem to support a two-state resolution, though the poll numbers there have weakened considerably over the past months.
There are many in Israel who doubt that the Palestinian leadership is really prepared to make the kind of sacrifices that will be required to bring about a resolution, especially with regard to the so-called refugees. And there are many Palestinians who doubt that the Israeli leadership, even following the election, will be prepared to make the kind of territorial compromises necessary to bring about peace.
The only way to know for sure is to begin negotiations, with no preconditions and with open minds and open hearts.
The world must remember that it was the Palestinian leadership, under Yasser Arafat, that rejected the generous offer by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton in 2000-2001. And the world must remember that it was the Palestinian Authority, under President Abbas, that failed to respond to the even more generous offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just a few years ago. If the current Palestinian leadership now refuses to sit down and negotiate in good faith, or if it refuses to accept a realistic offer from the new Israeli government, the international community—which has a notoriously short memory when it comes to Israel—will once again see who wants peace and who does not.
Nothing is likely to happen in the days to come, while Prime Minister Netanyahu tries to assemble an enduring coalition. But in the process of building such a coalition, the Prime Minister should think globally as well as locally. He should opt for a coalition that maximizes his flexibility in dealing with the Palestinian Authority. I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu very much wants to be the person who brings about peace with security between Israel and the Palestinians. In order to do so, he must work hard to construct a coalition that does not tie his hands. This will not be an easy task. Nor are the Palestinians his only international concern. Iran poses a far greater danger to Israel's security than do the Palestinians. The unraveling of the Arab Spring and the unpredictable situation in Syria pose additional challenges.
The United States and the rest of the world will be watching to see how Prime Minister Netanyahu deals with his local issues—namely constructing a viable coalition—while giving himself maximum flexibility to deal with global issues.
In the end, the Israeli people and the leaders they elect will prove to the world that Israel knows its own best interests and is in the best position to implement them. That is what democracy is all about, and Israel's recent elections display democracy at its best.
This article first appeared in Ha'aretz on 1/23/13
Reader comments on this item
|Realistically [42 words]||Pnina||Jan 26, 2013 14:10|
|What exactly... [138 words]||Elixelx||Jan 25, 2013 00:49|
|"Abbas agreed to this formulation..." Really? [203 words]||Nathan||Jan 24, 2013 16:33|
|Sounds reasonable - but no expectations of Palestinians [59 words]||Beverly L.||Jan 24, 2013 13:44|
|↔ Complete agreement [80 words]||Ora W. H.||Jan 25, 2013 08:23|
|Dershowitz's new preconditions [32 words]||Allan Leibler||Jan 24, 2013 13:23|
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."
by Alan M. Dershowitz