10/12/2010

Peace Process: Israel leads the game

On Tuesday, December 8, 2010, the United States announced that they were renouncing to obtain a new settlement freeze as a precondition for resuming negotiations.

Peace talks resumed in September in Washington and were suspended rather quickly at the end of a 10-month moratorium on colonization. Palestinian negotiators had then imposed construction freeze as a condition of returning to the negotiating table, condition that had been accepted by the United States. Despite U.S. efforts and a generous incentives package promised to Israel, the United States and Israel have not reached agreement on the wording of the bid. Moreover, many settlers and politicians have mobilized against the possibility of a second moratorium. The story eventually resulted in an end of inadmissibility addressed to Americans.

As the spokesman of U.S. State Department, Philip Crowley, speaks of a change in tactics, this decision sounds more like an admission of failure and helplessness for Palestinians. Washington is planning a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators next week to discuss a new approach focusing on « core issues » of the conflict, namely the borders, the issue of refugees and the status of Jerusalem. But this failure may have the effect of discrediting American diplomacy and to push the Palestinians to turn to other actors and other options. President Mahmoud Abbas moreover, spoke of a serious crisis and planned to circumvent the peace negotiations.
Its refusal of a new moratorium makes Israel once more an obstacle to the peace process. After demanding unacceptable conditions for the Palestinians such as the recognition of the Jewish character of Israel, and after allowing the adoption of measures such as an oath of allegiance to Israel and the holding of a referendum before any withdrawal from the Palestinian illegally annexed territories, Netanyahu government demonstrates the ambiguity of his position in the peace talks. The state continues to conduct a policy of “fait accompli” by delaying an agreement on a future Palestinian state. This allows him to further strengthen his coalition and to satisfy an increasingly radicalized Israeli opinion. However, it may earn him a political isolation and damage its image in international opinion.
The European Union (EU), meanwhile, deplored the Israeli intransigence and recalled that settlement is illegal under international law and harms peace efforts. In addition, a report by the Heads of Mission of European Union countries in Jerusalem, obtained on Tuesday by AFP, denounced Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the EU limits itself, as usual, to a rhetorical condemnation, without considering any sanctions. Association agreement have never been questioned. The European attitude is not likely to shake up the Israeli government. The EU has missed once again an opportunity to take political weight in this issue.
In the context of the current dead-end, alternative scenarios are discussed by the Palestinian Authority. Recognition of a Palestinian state within its 1967 borders could be sought from the UN and the U.S. Brazilian and Argentine recognitions, occurred this week, and the upcoming recognitions could give more credit to this option. But in case of failure, Mahmoud Abbas could demand the dissolution of the Authority, as he considered in an interview on December 3 on a Palestinian television. This could put 150,000 Palestinian officials unemployed and lead to a conflagration of violence in the territories. This high-risk option suggests skepticism and disillusion of the Palestinians who seem to have no longer much to lose.
Iman Bahri
On Tuesday, December 8, 2010, the United States announced that they were renouncing to obtain a new settlement freeze as a precondition for resuming negotiations.
Peace talks resumed in September in Washington and were suspended rather quickly at the end of a 10-month moratorium on colonization. Palestinian negotiators had then imposed construction freeze as a condition of returning to the negotiating table, condition that had been accepted by the United States. Despite U.S. efforts and a generous incentives package promised to Israel, the United States and Israel have not reached agreement on the wording of the bid. Moreover, many settlers and politicians have mobilized against the possibility of a second moratorium. The story eventually resulted in an end of inadmissibility addressed to Americans.
As the spokesman of U.S. State Department, Philip Crowley, speaks of a change in tactics, this decision sounds more like an admission of failure and helplessness for Palestinians. Washington is planning a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators next week to discuss a new approach focusing on « core issues » of the conflict, namely the borders, the issue of refugees and the status of Jerusalem. But this failure may have the effect of discrediting American diplomacy and to push the Palestinians to turn to other actors and other options. President Mahmoud Abbas moreover, spoke of a serious crisis and planned to circumvent the peace negotiations.
Its refusal of a new moratorium makes Israel once more an obstacle to the peace process. After demanding unacceptable conditions for the Palestinians such as the recognition of the Jewish character of Israel, and after allowing the adoption of measures such as an oath of allegiance to Israel and the holding of a referendum before any withdrawal from the Palestinian illegally annexed territories, Netanyahu government demonstrates the ambiguity of his position in the peace talks. The state continues to conduct a policy of “fait accompli” by delaying an agreement on a future Palestinian state. This allows him to further strengthen his coalition and to satisfy an increasingly radicalized Israeli opinion. However, it may earn him a political isolation and damage its image in international opinion.
The European Union (EU), meanwhile, deplored the Israeli intransigence and recalled that settlement is illegal under international law and harms peace efforts. In addition, a report by the Heads of Mission of European Union countries in Jerusalem, obtained on Tuesday by AFP, denounced Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the EU limits itself, as usual, to a rhetorical condemnation, without considering any sanctions. Association agreement have never been questioned. The European attitude is not likely to shake up the Israeli government. The EU has missed once again an opportunity to take political weight in this issue.
In the context of the current dead-end, alternative scenarios are discussed by the Palestinian Authority. Recognition of a Palestinian state within its 1967 borders could be sought from the UN and the U.S. Brazilian and Argentine recognitions, occurred this week, and the upcoming recognitions could give more credit to this option. But in case of failure, Mahmoud Abbas could demand the dissolution of the Authority, as he considered in an interview on December 3 on a Palestinian television. This could put 150,000 Palestinian officials unemployed and lead to a conflagration of violence in the territories. This high-risk option suggests skepticism and disillusion of the Palestinians who seem to have no longer much to lose.

Iman Bahri