Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

May 25, 2010

An Update on Negotiations

As George Mitchell has returned fruitless from the first round of proximity talks, prospects for success of the four month long project have already dwindled.  A bleak atmosphere of cynicism surrounds Israel and the West Bank, as both Jews and Palestinians believe the talks will be exercises in futility.

The proximity talks seemed doomed from the beginning.  The spirit of negotiations was  dampened  months ago, when in March Netanyahu  announced the building of 1,600 new homes in an East Jerusalem settlement, and President Abbas retaliated by announcing that negotiations with Israel would not take place unless there was a freeze on settlement building.  However, the subsequent scolding and cajoling by the U.S. resulted in both men decreasing the intensity of their agendas, for the sake of possible negotiations.

Concessions made on both sides do little to actually improve the prospects for negotiation.  The Palestinians want the “core” issues to be discussed: the status of Jerusalem, refugees, and borders.  However, Israel claims it cannot make any promises, and only substantial progress can be made in direct talks on such issues.  This is where the peace process diverges, the maximum issues Israel is willing to discuss is the minimum of Palestinian issues.  The Palestinians want to secure an agreement on a future Palestinian state in these proximity talks, while Israel wants to stall and buy time that will maintain the status quo.  Abbas and the Palestinians want to take advantage of the opportunity of talks while they still believe they have an ear in Washington that will listen to them, while Netanyahu wants to preserve his hold to power by not doing something that will upset his right-wing coalition.

The role of the U.S. can become crucial at this point.  The failure of the peace talks over the last thirty years can be contributed to U.S. hesitancy over whether or not it wanted to be a facilitator or mediator.  If the U.S. decides to be a facilitator, letting Israel and Palestine directly negotiate with little interference, the voice of Palestinians will be marginalized as Israel clearly has more leverage.  If the U.S.  decides to be a mediator, it must steer clear of one-sided biases that hinder an equitable solution.

As the instability of the Arab-Israeli conflict is linked to the instability of the entire region, it is clear that a solution to the conflict is in dire need and cannot be put off any longer.  One reason for the lack of assertion in this round of peace talks is that a failure would entail negative consequences for all parties involved.  Neither the Palestinians nor Israelis want to be blamed for a failure, and the U.S. does not want its image to degrade even more.  Nevertheless, politics must be put aside as the international climate is making it clear a stable solution is needed.  In order to reach such a stable solution, the U.S. cannot nudge along negotiations, but rather needs to take an assertive and equitable stance.



  1. What a farce are talks when the United States reliably funnels billions to Israel. Just this past week an additional $200 million or so was voted for Israel in the U.S. House of Representatives and the vote was 401-4. With this kind of support, why should Netanyahu not do as he pleases? The only hope is to counter the auto-voting in the Congress by getting the word out to Americans on the street – that their money is making possible the occupation and the grinding oppression of the Palestinians. This can be accomplished by demonstrations, letter writing, heck, I’ve even sent copies of B’tselem publications to rabbis at local synagogues. There were no responses, but everyone has to be made aware that the bedtime story of Israel is not what exists in reality.

    Comment by Clif Brown — May 25, 2010 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  2. nothing could be said that wasen’t already said…who was it who said ”only a fool keeps doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result”?… i believe, at present our best hope for peace is to try to figure out a way to resurrect generalissimo eisenhower… cliff , who are the 4 reps. who voted against the 200mil?… we must call their d.c. offices and voice our support… they always find my call of support refeshing as the calls usually run 100 to 1 against them… this is the key to the oppnents to peace success… carl scala

    Comment by carl, queens,ny — May 26, 2010 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  3. Carl, I don’t know if embedded links are allowed in comments but I’ll give it a try. here is the roll-call on that additional money to Israel. The 4 who had the guts to vote against it were Conyers, Paul, Stark and Kucinich. In case that HTML didn’t work here is the link in text – http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll284.xml

    Comment by Clif Brown — May 26, 2010 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  4. A follow up – I received today a request for a contribution from the Democratic Party, under the name of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. I suspect many Americans are getting the same mass mailing. Here is my response to be mailed back in the postage-paid envelope that came with the appeal…

    Dear Speaker Pelosi:
    I am in receipt of a request for a contribution to the Democratic party. While I might otherwise be inclined to contribute, I was outraged recently to see you smiling broadly in the company of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, directly after he had been visiting with President Obama, whose effort to end the illegal and unjust oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories by stopping the settlements had just been impressed on the Prime Minister.
    To do as you did was a slap in the face to the President, making him look both foolish and impotent in his foreign policy intentions, much appreciated, no doubt, by Mr. Netanyahu who has no reason to alter his policy if assured of your warm embrace.
    Until you and your fellow members of Congress stop maintaining the hypocritical position of the United States by expressing support for democracy and human rights while lavishly funding a foreign country that relentlessly oppresses and takes land from a subjugated indigenous people, you may expect no support from me.
    Place your responsibility to your country above your political debt to AIPAC, whose influence on members of the government of the United States is contrary to the good of both the U.S. and Israel.


    Comment by Clif Brown — May 26, 2010 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

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