Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Here we go again.  The Secretary of State John Kerry achieved the unthinkable, bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating (?) table.  It remains to be seen if these agreed-upon talks will reach the critical level of Final Status "give and take."

The turmoil in the Middle East has created a shift in priorities. It looks sometimes as if the Israelo-Palestinian impasse has been relegated to a second tier. The Arabs are more concerned with their own meltdowns than with the former core issue of the peace process. The encouragement of the Arab League given to Kerry signals more a lack of short-term interest and a sense of deja vu and fatalism.  Israel got some breathing space after the Arab Spring turned into a nightmare.  Abbas looks like a very lonely man surrounded by internal division and regional indifference. The Arabs are too happy to see the Americans getting involved again in this endless, hopeless saga.

It is hard to fathom how the fundamental hurdles (Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements, border corrections and land swaps) could suddenly be solved through a mutual "give and take" under American tutelage. If there were to appear a ray of hope, the former Quartet might have to be involved.

The American chief negotiator, Ambassador Martin Indyk is obviously ideally suited to steer those talks, given his long diplomatic experience in the region and his personal knowledge of the actors and the hurdles.  He is trusted by all sides.  I know that he has also been criticized for being closer to the Israeli point of view, but many of his former actions can equally be seen as favoring the Palestinians.

The main problem is one of asymmetry.  Netanyahu feels more secure while Abbas looks diminished.  Besides, the Israeli priority is "security," which curtails a lot of what might be considered to meet Palestinian demands. There are more taboos than windows of opportunity. In reality, the parameters for a Final Status outcome are known by all.  Nevertheless, they require compromises that no side has been able to swallow.  For the Palestinians, the situation is dire because most movements towards the Israeli side which could be considered would equal political suicide under the current circumstances.

The American Secretary of State deserves praise after his marathon Kissinger-style shuttle diplomacy.  The United States is attempting a "comeback" by way of the backdoor of the Peace Process in a region adrift and with the support of the mostly a Sunni establishment. 

Meanwhile, Washington has chosen reason over indignation regarding Syria. I hope the Sinai looming disaster will be closely checked, together with the Egyptians. Lately the minefield over there is growing, rather than being cleared. The brush fire in the Middle East is in need of intervention, on condition that the partition between the less undesirable and the objectionable is not blurred.

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