World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Where Are The Leaders To Answer The Call?

Where Are The Leaders To Answer The Call?

Alon Ben-Meir -

20 January 2014

No one can accuse Secretary of State John Kerry of not doing his very best to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. His tenacity, commitment and perseverance are exemplary, and if anyone can remotely succeed in ending the conflict, Kerry unquestionably tops the list. Logically, if Kerry did not believe in the prospect of reaching an agreement, he would not have invested this much time, resources and political capital on an enterprise that has eluded so many before him.

The question is why I, like so many other observers, doubt that the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will lead to a solution in spite of Kerry’s Herculean efforts and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s and President Abbas’ presumed “commitment” to peace.

There is no easy answer, but what has characterized the intractability of the conflict in the past remains in play today, which is further aggravated by a faulty framework for the negotiations and a lack of commitment to reach an agreement that would of necessity require mutually painful concessions.

The rules of engagement: Kerry stated that “[the negotiations] would address all of the core issues that we have been addressing since day one, including borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition and the end of conflict and of all claims.” This sounds compelling, but in reality it is a recipe for failure.

To begin with, the inherent flaw in setting these “rules of engagement” is that it did not place negotiating the conflicting issues in a sequence where a resolution of one would facilitate a solution to another.

Although the negotiations involved all the issues that Kerry enumerated, Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s national security must top the agenda. His demand, however, that Israel retain residual forces in the Jordan Valley only reinforced the Palestinians’ suspicion that the Israeli occupation will indefinitely continue only in another form, which naturally evoked stiff resistance.

Had Kerry insisted that reaching an agreement on borders must come first instead of succumbing to Netanyahu’s demand, he could have paved the road to coming very close to reaching an agreement, not only on Israel’s security concerns but the settlements problem as well.

Ironically, Netanyahu has consistently invoked the need for defensible borders while adamantly refusing to discuss borders first, because he simply does not want to establish at the onset the parameters of a Palestinian state, to which he has not really subscribed.

An agreement on borders would have provided both the practical requirement and the psychological comfort the PA needs to engage in a quid pro quo with the Israelis. This would have allowed Abbas to demonstrate that he has achieved something that has never been achieved before and make him far more flexible to permit certain residual Israeli forces to remain in the Jordan Valley as a part of a UN peacekeeping force for a specified period of time.

Netanyahu’s argument that such a major concession will certainly unravel his government does not explain or justify why holding onto the coalition government is more important than peace. Reaching an agreement with the Palestinians requires a dramatic change in the political landscape and discourse inside Israel.

Any Israeli political leader must place peace on top of his political platform and any prime minister must risk his position or even his life and lead the people to peace, not to the abyss where Netanyahu is leading the country. As of now there is still no agreement on this contentious issue of keeping residual Israeli forces along the Jordan Valley; instead, it is compounding the overall difficulties in negotiating other thorny issues which may well be Netanyahu’s intention.

The Settlements Expansion: Although the rules of engagement did not stipulate that Israel must suspend the construction of new housing units during the negotiations, Kerry’s failure to persuade Netanyahu to suspend construction, or at a minimum do so discreetly and at a slower pace (without deliberate provocation of the Palestinians), has poisoned the atmosphere and deepened the PA’s doubts about Netanyahu’s real intentions.

For good reasons, Abbas was furious when he said “We will not remain patient as the settlement cancer spreads, especially in Jerusalem, and we will use our right as a UN observer state by taking political, diplomatic and legal action to stop it.”

Here too, an agreement on borders first would have established the status of most settlements and determined which will become a part of Israel proper and which will not. Such an initial agreement would allow Israel to expand any of the settlements that fall under its jurisdiction by agreement on the basis of equitable land swaps, even before a comprehensive accord is achieved.

Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state: What has further complicated the negotiations is Netanyahu’s demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The irony here is that Israel does not need any Palestinian government, now or in the future, to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in order for Israel to maintain its Jewish national identity.

There are undoubtedly sinister intentions behind Netanyahu’s demand and unfortunately Kerry fell for it, however illogical and counterproductive it may be. Whether Netanyahu is making this demand to please his hardcore conservative constituency or as a ploy to play for time, or even if he believed that such recognition has real merit because of shifting demographics in Israel’s disfavor that would affect its future national identity, he is being disingenuous at best.

As I have said in an earlier.

*************

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

alon@alonben-meir.com                                                   Web: www.alonben-meir.com

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

World Grossly Ill-Prepared To Deal Ebola Outbreak

Leaders from Sierra Leone and Liberia, the two countries, along with Guinea at the frontlines of the battle against the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa, urged the General Assembly today ensure the United Nations mounted a stronger, better coordinated response “to end this grave threat to our collective survival.”More>>

ALSO:

  • Save The Children - Save the Children Builds Its First Ebola Treatment Centre
  • Israel’s Netanyahu Warns Against ‘Militant Islam’

    29 September 2014 – From the podium of the General Assembly today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the world of the grave threat he said it faced from militant Islam’s desire to dominate the planet, be they Sunni extremists or ... More>>

    Deputy PM of Syria Victims Of ISIL Brutality 'Waiting On Us To Act'

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant began carrying their slaughter in the Middle East, “they might have surprised many of the countries present here, but not…us,” the Deputy Prime Minister of Syria told the United Nations General Assembly, underscoring today that the time has come for the world to stand united and tackle the threat head-on.More>>

    Not A Single Child Untouched By Recent Gaza Conflict

    There is not a single child who has not been adversely affected by the recent conflict in Gaza, where children suffer from bedwetting, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, a loss of appetite, and display more aggressive behaviour at school, an independent United Nations human rights expert said todayMore>>


    Ebola: UN Readies To Start Work As Death Toll Surpasses 3,000

    Ebola response: medical supplies, including protective equipment and essential medicine, are loaded onto trucks at the Lungi International Airport in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone. Photo: UNICEF/Sulaiman Stephens More>>

    Syria/Iraq: Some 330,000 To Seek Refugee Status

    Asylum-seekers and economic migrants take to the seas, waiting out the dangerous journey in the boat's cramped cargo space. Photo: UNHCR/A. D'Amato More>>

    Guinean Journalists Killed Raising Awareness On Ebola

    The head of the United Nations agency mandated to defend press freedom today deplored the deaths of three journalists killed while reporting on an Ebola aid mission in south-eastern Guinea.>More>>
    Major Milestone In Search For Water On Distant Planets

    Astronomers have found water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet about four times bigger than Earth, in the constellation Cygnus about 124 light years - or nearly 729 trillion miles - from our home planet. In the quest to learn about planets beyond ... More>>

    Get More From Scoop

     
     
     
     
     
    World
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news