Top Ten Reasons to Ignore the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

 

You’ve probably heard that John Kerry has succeeded in wrangling the Israelis and the Palestinians to yet another round of peace talks. Here’s why you might as well ignore this news.

10. The Palestinian contingent represents only the West Bank Palestinians, not the Gaza Palestinians, who are ruled by Hamas (whom they elected in 2006 and who then violently exiled the Fatah party to the West Bank in 2007). Any peace plan hammered out by Mahmoud Abbas and Bibi Netanyahu would necessarily exclude the Gaza Palestinians and likely fail adequately to address the practical problem of territorial discontinuity between the West Bank and Gaza. A nonstarter, in other words.

9. Kerry has selected former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk as special envoy to the peace process. Full disclosure: I met Indyk when I worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy years ago, and he impressed me with his sincerity and his modesty. He’s a decent man with good intentions. He is also a central figure behind a full 20 years’ worth of failed efforts at reconciling the Israelis and the Palestinians. Those results are hardly his fault alone, but it is nevertheless curious to select as envoy a man whose career is marked by a signal and repeated failure to achieve the desired outcome. 

8. The Americans are said to be pushing the talks to forestall a Palestinian push for further recognition at the United Nations, which would undermine any future negotiations with the Israelis. There is no reason whatever to believe that the simple fact of the talks will suffice to check the Palestinians on this score. On the contrary: it is easy to envision Abbas hightailing it straight to First Avenue the moment he encounters any resistance from the Israelis.

7. The disintegration of the old order across the Middle East during the so-called Arab Spring has demonstrated what a nonsense it is to place the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the center of the region’s problems. Our domestic battle has been striking, in fact, for its total irrelevance to most of the turmoil. The obviousness of this point takes some of the heat off of Israel to reach an agreement (and makes the sponsoring Americans look dismayingly naive and out of touch with history).

6. Kerry has put a nine-month deadline on the achievement of a final deal. This target is so spectacularly unrealistic as to promote serious doubt as to Kerry’s basic understanding not only of the parties involved but of the conflict itself. 

5. Abbas needs backing from some key Arab leaders if a deal is to carry any weight. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is old and sick, and King Abdullah of Jordan is preoccupied at home. Egypt is not in a position to offer sufficient backing now either. This is what Kerry means when he says the window of opportunity is closing, and largely explains his urgency in nudging the parties back to the table. The problem is that the window is not just closing; it’s well nigh shut already. Choking a deal out of the parties and then leaving it to shrivel in the wind could have consequences as serious as letting the status quo remain until a more propitious moment.

4. Abbas — President of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian side of the peace talk equation — says his goal is a Palestine that is completely Judenrein. A few days ago, he said, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.” And this is hardly a new position. Three years ago, he said, “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.” This staggering double standard (just imagine Israel making an equivalent statement) doesn’t warrant so much as a raised eyebrow either in Europe or in much of the US, but who cares. Pigs will fly — over Jerusalem, yet — before Bibi Netanyahu will ever agree not only to summarily evict hundreds of thousands of Israelis from the West Bank but to render any portion of Jerusalem permanently, or even temporarily, Jew-free. Seriously. Get a grip, people.

3. The Israeli people well remember the fruits of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. The popular willingness to suspend disbelief regarding Palestinian intentions has dropped precipitously over the past decade. The people want peace, but they don’t want suicide, and their prime minister knows it.

2. Abbas is at the end of his career, and he is highly unlikely to go out by giving up on the Palestinian demand for the right of return. And Netanyahu is never going to agree to it.

1. President Obama’s no-doubt considerable desire for a splashy foreign policy success in the Middle East is simply irrelevant. The stakes are too high for any of us to compromise for the sake of his legacy. 

If the situation develops in a direction that suggests something might actually come of these talks, I’ll certainly let you know. But in the meantime, carry on. Nothing to see here.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @Mikescapes

    This effort is more for domestic consumption than a sincere expectation of any degree of success. The appearance of effort keeps the American Jews happy. Hope w/o change worked for Clinton remember. Same with the  rest of the American left. “We tried our damndest, but the Israelis wouldn’t give.” Clever politics for the Dems near future. Let’s hope that Bibi is smart enough to drop blame on the Arabs when it all falls apart.

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    @FrederickKey

    Oh, well. The pig is cute, anyway.

    • #2
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    @KayofMT

    Judith, have you met Paula R. Stern, “A Soldier’s Mother” blog? She lives in Israel near Jerusalem. She has a piece….

    “When hell freezes over, I might believe that the Palestinian Authority is ready to make peace. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps.”

    http://www.israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.com/

    A video is posted with Abbas stating very clearly, “I will not accept a Jewish state.”

    • #3
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    @DocJay

    What a ridiculous exercise. The Palestinians want peace as much as Al Sharpton wants racial harmony.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    10. The Palestinian contingent represents only the West Bank Palestinians, not the Gaza Palestinians, who are ruled by Hamas…

    Or the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, Syria, etc. A significant segment of the Palestinian population.

    4. Abbas — President of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian side of the peace talk equation — says his goal is a Palestine that is completely Judenrein. A few days ago, he said, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.”… This staggering double standard (just imagine Israel making an equivalent statement)…

    There are no non-Israelis permanently settled in Israel.  The Palestinians living there are Israeli Christians and Muslims.  Did Abbas say no Jews, or no Israelis?  Did he say no Israelis and really mean no Jews?  Is the whole point academic, in that no Israeli Jews would give up their Israeli citizenship to live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship anyway, assuming that was an option?

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    @DaveRoy

    After so many presidents have tried and failed to bring the two sides together, there is certainly no reason to expect anything different from this one.

    Especially when the reasoning for it is so blatantly political on the domestic front.

    • #6
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    @Devereaux
    Zafar

    4. Abbas — President of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian side of the peace talk equation — says his goal is a Palestine that is completely Judenrein. A few days ago, he said, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.”… This staggering double standard (just imagine Israel making an equivalent statement)…

    There are no non-Israelis permanently settled in Israel.  The Palestinians living there are Israeli Christians and Muslims.  Did Abbas say no Jews, or no Israelis?  Did he say no Israelis and really mean no Jews?  Is the whole point academic, in that no Israeli Jews would give up their Israeli citizenship to live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship anyway, assuming that was an option? · 3 hours ago

    You keep parsing words like that, Zafar, and we will have to get you a mince-o-matic.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    I appreciate your responding, and I do understand that problems are always more difficult and complex inside them than for an outsider looking in.

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    …several million Palestinian refugees would likely second your point that land should be purchased (or not sold, if that is the inhabitants desire).

    Unless they’re Jews, in which case they should be compelled to sell or otherwise forced out, since their status on the land is fundamentally illegitimate.

    What does it take for the ownership of land by its current inhabitants to be accepted as valid by other claimants?

    That’s the underlying question – with the assumption (probably true) that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, the Nakba invalidates Israel’s moral right to most of the land they currently hold.

    If you turn it around, what moral right do you think most Israelis would recognise for Palestinians who lost their land in 1948 and after?

    I’m not asking about what either side is likely to find satisfactory enough to live with (a vexing enough issue), but what people are likely to think is actually just, for the other side.  Or is that a luxury neither side can afford?

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    @EugeneKriegsmann

    The most simple reason I choose to ignore these talks was something I learned from Bernard Lewis. Muslims believe that any land that was once Dar al Islam remains so in perpetuity. It is an inarguable point. They believe that Palestine, all of Palestine was once Dar al Islam, and nothing will ever change that view. So, Israel, in their view, does not have a right to exist, never had a right to exist, and will never have a right to exist. There is nothing to be discussed or settled by talks. They will continue to try to drive Israelis out of Israel until they are so thoroughly beaten that they understand their only choice is between giving up or dying. I think, at heart Benjamin Netanyahu knows that as do most intelligent Israelis. Obama, at some level, agrees with the Palestinians.

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    @jarhead

    Judith, what’s your take on why Bibi agreed to release the 104 Palestinians terrorists before the start of the peace talks?  I still don’t understand this action.

    • #10
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    @IsraelP

    Well, the local press (local = Israeli) is certainly ignoring the immediate ramifications of the Obama-Kerry machinations. Injuries from stonings of Israeli cars are way up. But you wouldn’t know it from Haaretz or (even) the Jerusalem Post.

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  12. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    Sometimes we hear what we think or fear.

    Devereaux

    Zafar

    4. Abbas — President of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian side of the peace talk equation — says his goal is a Palestine that is completely Judenrein. A few days ago, he said, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.”… This staggering double standard (just imagine Israel making an equivalent statement)…

    There are no non-Israelis permanently settled in Israel.  The Palestinians living there are Israeli Christians and Muslims.  Did Abbas say no Jews, or no Israelis?  Did he say no Israelis and really mean no Jews?  Is the whole point academic, in that no Israeli Jews would give up their Israeli citizenship to live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship anyway, assuming that was an option? · 3 hours ago

    You keep parsing words like that, Zafar, and we will have to get you a mince-o-matic. · 6 hours ago

    But thank you for your kind offer – I’d love one.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @

    The “territorial discontinuity” between WB and Gaza, Judith, is a good thing in my mind.  Having thought a good deal about the situation there I’m convinced that the two-state solution (with a state “Palestine” comprising those two disjoint regions) is a bad idea.  Should Israel, into perpetuity, be forced to accommodate hostile traffic from border to border?

    While the Palestinian Arabs have a lot of similarity, there is a remarkable distinction between the two groups, and the separation has been relatively good for stability of the WB. 

    WB Palestinians share a common culture and heritage with Jordanian Arabs, whereas Gazan Arabs are homogeneous with the Arabs of Sinai and Egypt.  It does not make sense, except for the purpose of uniting hostile groups against Israel, to force them into a crucible of anti-Israeli hatred.

    Gaza should become a demilitarized territory under the jurisdiction of Egypt, with a joint enforcement arrangement with the Israelis.  WB should become a demilitarized territory, or possibly absorbed into, Jordan (but under the condition of permanent, enforced demilitarization).

    Obviously there is some necessity for negotiation over specific areas within the WB territory; the settlements present a complication.   “Palestinians” divided themselves.  Keep it.

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    @
    Zafar  Is the whole point academic, in that no Israeli Jews would give up their Israeli citizenship to live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship anyway, assuming that was an option? · 13 hours ago

    Not sure how that would happen, Zafar, since Jews have affinity with the land, and must purchase the land upon which they live.  In Palestine, as in Jordan and other lands in the ME, it is a capital offense to sell land to a Jew.  Think about that.  If you sell land to a Jew the state will kill you.  With that kind of institutionalized vicious racism in place, what would induce an Israeli Jew to “live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship”?  Do you have some fantasy about this ethnic cleansing policy being overturned in Arab lands?  Last I heard it hasn’t been on the table in any of the Israel/Palestine negotiations.

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    @UmbraFractus

    Judith, point 4 should be point 1.

    The Palestinians are murderous, xenophobic savages, and any attempt at a peace deal which denies this fact is doomed to failure.

    • #15
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    @Zafar

    I’m not sure of what you are trying to say RC, but several million Palestinian refugees would likely second your point that land should be purchased (or not sold, if that is the inhabitants desire).

    R. Craigen

    Not sure how that would happen, Zafar, since Jews have affinity with the land, and must purchase the land upon which they live.  In Palestine, as in Jordan and other lands in the ME, it is a capital offense to sell land to a Jew.  Think about that.  If you sell land to a Jew the state will kill you.  With that kind of institutionalized vicious racism in place, what would induce an Israeli Jew to “live in the West Bank with Palestinian citizenship”?  Do you have some fantasy about this ethnic cleansing policy being overturned in Arab lands?  Last I heard it hasn’t been on the table in any of the Israel/Palestine negotiations.

    Ethnic cleansing should not be rewarded, no matter who does it or to whom.

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    @judithlevy
    Zafar:  There are no non-Israelis permanently settled in Israel.  The Palestinians living there are Israeli Christians and Muslims.  Did Abbas say no Jews, or no Israelis?  Did he say no Israelis and really mean no Jews? 

    This is the vital question, Zafar.  Does he mean Jews would be allowed to live in Palestine provided they accepted Palestinian citizenship, or does he mean that no Jews (rather than no Israelis) will be allowed in Palestine, period? 

    If the former, a clear statement to that effect would go far toward convincing skeptical Israelis that he is serious about peace. But he has always avoided such a statement, and he is never pressed on it. 

    Sometimes he slips, though. In Doha, in May 2011, Abbas said that in a final status agreement Palestine would be “clean” (or “empty,” depending on the translation), which certainly smacks of ethnic cleansing. The object apparently is for Israel to maintain its growing Arab minority but for Palestine to be free of any Jewish minority. With that picture in mind, it’s not hard to understand why many Israelis believe the Palestinians when they say their ultimate goal is the conquest of all Israel.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy
    Zafar: several million Palestinian refugees would likely second your point that land should be purchased (or not sold, if that is the inhabitants desire).

    Unless they’re Jews, in which case they should be compelled to sell or otherwise forced out, since their status on the land is fundamentally illegitimate.

    The refusal to tolerate Jewish feet on Palestinian land goes straight to the heart of the problem: the refusal to accept the Jewish connection to (any of) the land at all. Jews’ simple acknowledgement of their own history is so threatening that their very presence, even as Palestinian citizens, is abhorrent.

    Again, the lack of any clarification of the status of Jews on Palestinian land following an agreement — any acknowledgement that they would need to be protected, say — suggests a) that they will be unwelcome at best and b) that Abbas is not serious about peace. It is entirely relevant that Palestinians are still threatened with death for selling land to Jews, and that Palestinian children are still taught that Haifa and Jaffa will someday be “liberated”. It’s disingenuous to expect Israel to ignore these facts when no effort is made even to acknowledge them, let alone change them.

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    @HerrForce1

    Thank you Judith for providing the logical basis for expressing my “who-cares” amongst some of the people I know who think peace is possible. Peace for peace’s sake is a morally bankrupt position.

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    @GroupCaptainMandrake

     

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    You’ve probably heard that John Kerry has succeeded in wrangling the Israelis and the Palestinians to yet another round of peace talks. Here’s why you might as well ignore this news.

    I ignore it through induction.  The prior n-rounds didn’t work, and I see no reason to suppose that John Kerry has the wherewithal to change things.

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    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Zafar

    There are no non-Israelis permanently settled in Israel.  

    If you mean there are no permanent residents who are not Israeli citizens, you are mistaken.  Otherwise, I’m not sure what you mean.

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    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Zafar: Ethnic cleansing should not be rewarded, no matter who does it or to whom.

    Sorry Zafar, I misread the context of your original comment, so I withdraw my comment.  I assume you were replying to Judith’s comments on ethnic cleansing.

    • #22
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    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Zafar: That’s the underlying question – with the assumption (probably true) that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, the Nakba invalidates Israel’s moral right to most of the land they currently hold.

    If you turn it around, what moral right do you think most Israelis would recognise for Palestinians who lost their land in 1948 and after?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “moral right to most of the land” as opposed to “legal right”?  Do I have a moral right to own property in NYC distinct from a legal right?

    I don’t think it’s possible to give a blanket view of what the Israelis may think is a reasonable claim for Palestinians who left the country prior to and during the War of Independence.  No doubt this would be discussed as part of an ultimate settlement, if such ever occurs.  What is “after” in this context? 

     

    • #23
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    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Zafar:

    Oh do let’s not fume (except for the odd cigar).  I agree with you that negotiations aren’t going anywhere, but I don’t think they ever will until one looks at the other and realises that they (also) have a point. Hence the moral question. · 8 hours ago

    Perhaps, although the way things are heading, I can envisage a sort of “divorce settlement” in which neither party is really happy with the other.

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  25. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    If you paid the owners for it, I think that you do.

    Group Captain Mandrake

    I’m not sure what you mean by “moral right to most of the land” as opposed to “legal right”?  Do I have a moral right to own property in NYC distinct from a legal right?

    I don’t think it’s possible to give a blanket view of what the Israelis may think is a reasonable claim for Palestinians who left the country prior to and during the War of Independence.  No doubt this would be discussed as part of an ultimate settlement, if such ever occurs.  What is “after” in this context?

    In terms of ‘after’ I’m thinking of things like – village land on the West Bank declared out of bounds (or restricted) to villagers for security purposes, then declared unused (because out of bounds), confiscated and reallocated to a settlement.

    I am not asking about reasonable, I’m asking about moral.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Inactive
    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Zafar: If you paid the owners for it, I think that you do.

    In terms of ‘after’ I’m thinking of things like – village land on the West Bank declared out of bounds (or restricted) to villagers for security purposes, then declared unused (because out of bounds), confiscated and reallocated to a settlement.

    I am not asking about reasonable, I’m asking about moral. · 0 minutes ago

    Moral doesn’t enter into it.  My right to live in my apartment is legal.

    If there is ever a comprehensive peace agreement, I am fairly sure there will have been a discussion of legal compensation for people (including Jewish refugees from Arab countries).  It’s a legal matter, not a moral issue.

    However, we’re straying away from the thrust of Judith’s posting which is that this set of negotiations isn’t going anywhere for a variety of reasons.  You and I can fume at each other as much as we like, but it’s not going to change the situation one agora.  

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    @GroupCaptainMandrake
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    7.The disintegration of the old order across the Middle East during the so-called Arab Spring has demonstrated what a nonsense it is to place the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the center of the region’s problems. 

    Sadly, it’s still a popular mantra that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the central issue in the region despite the clear evidence of its having being manufactured post 1967.  

    4.Abbas — says his goal is a Palestine that is completelyJudenrein. 

    I am always surprised by the number of people who are either ignorant of or accepting of this.  Why must it be Judenrein?

    2.Abbas is at the end of his career, and he is highly unlikely to go out by giving up on the Palestinian demand for the right of return. And Netanyahu is never going to agree to it.

    I have always assumed that he would drop this demand in favour of some form of monetary compensation (which would also apply to Jewish refugees).  Perhaps I’m being naive.  Then, there’s the question of Jerusalem, another non-starter I suspect.

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    @Zafar

    Can you think of a legal right that is not based on a moral right?   I can’t.  Your right to private property, for example, is based on your moral right to the results of the fruits of your (or your family’s) labour.

    Group Captain Mandrake

    Moral doesn’t enter into it.  My right to live in my apartment is legal.

    If there is ever a comprehensive peace agreement, I am fairly sure there will have been a discussion of legal compensation for people (including Jewish refugees from Arab countries).  It’s a legal matter, not a moral issue.

    However, we’re straying away from the thrust of Judith’s posting which is that this set of negotiations isn’t going anywhere for a variety of reasons.  You and I can fume at each other as much as we like, but it’s not going to change the situation one agora.  

    Oh do let’s not fume (except for the odd cigar).  I agree with you that negotiations aren’t going anywhere, but I don’t think they ever will until one looks at the other and realises that they (also) have a point. Hence the moral question.

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    @Zafar

    Both sides have committed to having any agreement endorsed by referendum before it goes into effect. Admirable, but:

    1  Which Palestinians get to vote?  West Bank opinion may trend different to Gaza opinion may trend different to refugee camp in Lebanon opinion, but they all have an arguable right to have a say in the outcome.

    2  It didn’t work out so well in Cyprus – because (jmho) one side thought that they had the upper hand and didn’t have to compromise much.  Possible similarities?

    • #29
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    @RossC

    The similarity I see is universal and it is people having it both ways.  People often come down on both sides of an issue as it moves through history.  Famously John Kerry voted for the war before he was against it.  Everyone is that way.  By being on both sides (i.e. “I am for peace.” and “I am against this treaty.”  everyone feels good about themselves no matter how it turns out.

    BTW is it really true that a Palestinian can get the death sentence for selling land to a Jew?

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