Monday, September 6, 2010

Re-launched Talks: The PowerPoint

Why they started
  • Abbas: No other reason for power; Hamas makes war, Fatah makes peace, brings donors
  • Netanyahu: Fears international isolation, breach with Washington; possibly, aware of historic role, like Begin, Sharon, and Olmert before him
  • Obama: Needs Arab (Muslim) street; pillar of foreign policy: engagement, collective security, globalization; avoid being maneuvered into showdown with Iran
  • World is watching; sick of violence in Middle East; oil shocks disrupt recovery
  • Jordanian, Egyptian regimes need resolution
What they have going for them
  • Palestinian economy growing, middle class leaders dare not fail, fear Islamist vise
  • Israeli economy needs global markets; business/professional class fears "South Africa," neo-orthodox ethos of the settlers, increase of "parasites," emigration of their educated kids
  • All leaders raising stakes, failure will precipitate violence—“last chance”
  • Best leaders either side likely to have: Fayyad best to win over Israeli center, Netanyahu best to win over Israeli right
  • Obama administration, Petraeus, understand urgency; willing to rally Europe, Arab League
Where they will break down
  • Status of Jerusalem; East Jerusalem part of Palestine? Moment of truth for "Kingdom of Judea"
  • Status of Ariel; town of 15,000, part of Israel, or dismantled?; really, ectopic pregnancy
  • Timing and placement of international forces; need to expand "Area C" for Palestinian market development
  • Other issues—border, refugees—tractable
  • Settlements freeze unfrozen? Never completely frozen; Netanyahu will not defy Obama over this, precipitate Abbas walkout
When they will break down
  • Netanyahu fears staking political future on opposition support, splitting Likud
  • Israeli--really Jerusalem--streets violently oppose any agreement; Netanyahu refuses to put state above "Zionist" values
  • Renewed war with Hamas and/or Hezbollah
  • Attack on, by, Iran (highly unlikely)
Why they may succeed
  • Appropriate context for Obama to put thumb on the scales; knows the issues intimately;
  • Obama cannot afford to lose; throw away leadership of West; go into presidential election unpresidential
  • War fatigue all around; new generations looking for change; all but fanatics disdain status quo
  • Nothing to do with methods of “effective negotiation”; all core issues known; but inertia of diplomacy brings matters to a head
What consequences if fail
  • East Jerusalem explodes; then... you don't want to know


Metternich said...


Abbas cannot deliver peace. He certainly can't deliver peace with Hamas. The PA could not hold on to sovereignty. Hamas, Syria, or someone like that would take it away. Compare the West Bank to Lebanon. If Hamas takes over the West Bank, they would abrogate the treaty, but not right away. A war between a re-armed Palestine and Israel would be worse than a new Intifada.

Netanyahu cannot deliver sovereignty to the PA. Israel and especially the Likud don't trust them, don't trust their ability to hold on to power. After Abbas, who? A peace treaty doesn't have Israeli domestic political support.

If an agreement is reached, look for Hamas to get it in the neck. They are the primary obstacle to a two-state plan, which probably was why Kadima waged the Cast Lead operation. Netanyahu might possibly find a use for their obstructionism; so Netanyahu is less likely to attack Gaza than Kadima.

Obama seems to want a photo-op for the mid-term elections. Look for Netanyahu and Abbas shaking hands with a smiling Obama in the background, in October. I suspect lower-key efforts at Middle East peace after the elections. We'll see.

Potter said...

Abbas can deliver as much as Netanyahu can deliver- an agreement worked out at the upper levels. Then the people on each side (neither leader has full support; Israel is as divided as Palestinians) must ratify or not ratify, put an end to this or continue the insanity see the further consequences. Israeli's may very well be against such an agreement holding tight, and Palestinians may very well be ready for it, tired of the occupation.. A vote/referendum ( as promised long ago) will tell. The gamble regarding the Palestinian side is to get enough support to dry up Hamas’ support or at least dry up their hard liners/stance in order to keep some power. Israelis, may well feel, foolishly, that they don't need to seriously compromise because of superior military force.

Israel by stalling and relying on force has managed hold onto land and expand settlements but at the same time has gotten itself backed into a corner existentially where having no agreement at this point will be worse than a risk with one with Abbas.

This is Netanyahu's moment: to let go of his hardliners at home and grab Abbas's hand or to retreat and say "I tried but the Palestinian side was impossibly unreasonable and we don’t trust them" OR to try to fool everyone and drag this on and on and on getting nowhere while settlements continue and people get the drift of this theater/farce and pay it no mind… we have been there. Arabs are ready for the next step which as BA says will be more violence, and increased pressures internationally and isolation of Israel.

Many see the September 26th deadline regarding the settlement freeze as a telling moment.

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