|Thu May 06, 2010 3:52 pm The Road to Nowhere - By Michael Freund
|The "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians are now underway, and it seems clear to just about everyone - outside the White House, that is - that little will come of them.
As I suggest in the column below from the Jerusalem Post, by choreographing this farce of indirect talks which is doomed from the start, the Obama administration is playing directly into Palestinian hands, thereby diminishing still further the already dismal chances of making peace. The conceptual error underlying Washington's policy is stark and simple: they still seem to think that the Oslo process has a chance in hell of succeeding.
After two decades of failure, Washington would do better to re-examine its approach and acknowledge its mistakes. A good place to start would be to recognize once and for all that there is no serious partner on the Palestinian side with the courage, authority or conviction to negotiate terms with Israel. Like it or not, the fact is that "peace for peace" was and remains the only viable and acceptable basis for a just end to the conflict.
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The Road to Nowhere
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
May 6, 2010
On the eve of the anticipated start of the so-called "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians, there is a discernible lack of enthusiasm in the air.
The usual fanfare that accompanies the re-launch of Middle East negotiations has instead been replaced by an atmosphere of tedium and apathy, as it seems clear to just about everyone - outside the White House, that is - that little will come of the impending round of indirect dialogue.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday,
Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of IDF Intelligence’s Research Division, said that even before the talks commence, the Palestinians are "already preparing the ground for the failure" of the process.
And dovish Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor was no less gloomy in his assessment, telling the Jerusalem Post yesterday that the talks "won't yield results" because the Palestinians are not willing to take "tough decisions".
Indeed, it says a lot about the state of the peace process these days that the only tangible outcome certain to emerge is an inevitable boost in US envoy George Mitchell's frequent-flyer account.
This, of course, is entirely the fault of the Palestinians, who have consistently and repeatedly rejected the various gestures made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the past 12 months.
Basking in the glow of unprecedented American pressure on the Jewish state, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is in no rush to make progress in difficult bargaining with Israel.
Abbas has every reason to wait, knowing full well that when the negotiations stall, the weight of international and American pressure will come down hard on the decision-makers sitting in Jerusalem and not Ramallah.
But Washington too shares a great deal of the blame. By choreographing this farce of indirect talks which is doomed from the start, the Obama administration is playing directly into Palestinian hands, thereby diminishing still further the already dismal chances of making peace.
Through its naiveté, Washington is unwittingly setting the stage for a possible explosion of frustration and violence when the talks come screeching to a halt, which is hardly in anyone's interests.
The conceptual error underlying the policy of the Obama administration is stark and simple: they still seem to think that the Oslo process has a chance in hell of succeeding.
In this respect, it is well worth recalling an important if largely dubious anniversary in Middle East diplomacy that slipped by this week largely unnoticed.
It was sixteen years ago this past Tuesday, on May 4, 1994, that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat ascended a stage in Cairo and signed the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, paving the way for the first-ever transfer of Israeli territory to Palestinian control.
At the ceremony, then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres assured those present that a new day was at hand.
"Today," he said, beaming with self-confidence, "we declare that the conflict is over. Today we have agreed to promise mothers and children, Arab and Jewish, that no finger will pull a trigger to endanger the lives or to affect the dignity or happiness of their children."
Within a few weeks of the signing, Arafat returned triumphantly to Gaza, as the Israeli army retreated and the experiment begun back in the September 1993 Oslo Accords was put into place on the ground.
We all know just how well that turned out.
Despite Peres' optimism, the conflict remains far from over. Instead, the Oslo process bequeathed us with years of suicide bombings, hundreds of civilian deaths, diminished deterrence and the loss of territory, as well as the rise of Hamas.
Logic, then, would dictate that rather than trying to keep this failed process going, Washington would do better to re-examine its approach and acknowledge its mistakes.
A good place to start would be to recognize once and for all that there is no serious partner on the Palestinian side with the courage, authority or conviction to negotiate terms with Israel.
Like it or not, the chances of forging an agreement with the current cast of characters in Gaza City and Ramallah are close to nil.
Moreover, Obama's enthusiasm for the land-for-peace paradigm and the "two-state solution" has proven entirely wrong and misplaced. Israel's past abandonment of territory, whether unilaterally or through agreements, has only brought about disaster in its wake.
The fact is that "peace for peace" was and remains the only viable and acceptable basis for a just end to the conflict.
Nonetheless, Washington stubbornly refuses to accept what is obvious for all to see, and insists on plunging ahead down a well-worn path clearly marked with two terrifying words: "Dead End". The result is likely to be nothing less than catastrophic.
In diplomacy, Henry Kissinger once noted, "if you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere".
And that, it seems, is precisely where Obama is about to take us all.
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