International media outlets are making a big hoopla about the anticipated “direct” negotiations that have finally been scheduled to start in less than two weeks in Washington, DC between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. A reasonably informed observer can easily conclude that the facts do not support the hope that these negotiations would achieve a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The publicly declared positions of the negotiating parties are so far apart that there is no starting point from which they can advance. On any subject of substance, from borders, to settlements, to Jerusalem, to refugees, to detainees, to water, to security, Netanyahu and Abbas do not see eye to eye. Therefore, all signs indicate that there will not be negotiations; but there will be plenty of grandstanding. The unfortunate or fortunate part – depending on where one is coming from – will be that all participants will fail, or at best accomplish nothing. Very shortly after they start, the search will be intensified in both camps on how to demonstrate that the other party is the one to blame for the failure of those “negotiations.”
President Obama is not going to mediate negotiations; he is going there to teach the Republicans a lesson on how to demonstrate unconditional support for Israel. He probably intends to neutralize, if not gain the support of, the Zionist lobby for the midterm Congressional elections. He also would like to demonstrate to progressive forces within the United States that he is doing his best to bring the Middle East parties together, in the hope that he will continue to have their support for his domestic agenda. In peace negotiations, he will fail.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not going to negotiate; he is going there to show all his political opponents in Israel that he was successful in putting all of “them” including Obama in their places. Knowing that Israelis like to see a strong man in power to “protect” them, he probably believes that he will be able to demonstrate to the Israeli public that he is the strongest man in Israel, and in the meantime he probably intends – under the cover of negotiations – to increase Israelis settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in the hopes that he would achieve more success in the next elections that is always around the corner in Israeli politics. In peace negotiations, he will fail.
Mahmoud Abbas is not going to negotiate; he is going there to demonstrate to the whole world, especially to the Quartet (UN, EU, USA, and Russia), that Netanyahu is not serious about any negotiations. He probably hopes that those parties would, after exposing Netanyahu for what he is, apply pressure on the state of Israel or better yet impose a two-state solution in spite of Israeli rejection. With the Palestinian house divided, he would probably attempt to demonstrate to his people that he is more protective of Palestinian rights than his main political rival Hamas; by not willing to compromise on any matter of substance hoping that he will attract more Palestinian support. In peace negotiations, he will fail.
President Mubarak and King Abdullah II are not going to help in the negotiations. Each of the two is going there hoping to kill two birds in one stone. They will probably try to help Abbas in exposing Netanyahu to the world, and each of them wishes to demonstrate to his own people that he is doing everything possible to help the Palestinian leadership in its efforts to achieve something for the Palestinian people. In peace negotiations, they will both fail.
These so-called negotiations are being made a lot more than what they really are. We are witnessing what Egyptians call زوبعة في فنجان “a tempest in a teapot.” Nothing of substance will come out of these negotiations, and the political leaders who are participating in this charade are the first to know that fact, but they all probably believe that they have to appear to be doing something, for the devastating alternatives are not acceptable domestically or internationally.
The main reason for the total failure will be the fact that those leaders are going to “negotiate” in order to find a miracle to somehow revive the already dead two-state solution. The facts Israel put, and continues to put every day, on the grounds have long rendered the two-state solution impossible to implement without massive Jewish suffering. Both Netanyahu and Abbas know that these negotiations will go nowhere fast. Each of the two men wants the other to bear the heavy cost of reviving the two-state solution, and neither one is willing to give an inch. Abbas is already below the minimum that his people would accept. If he gives any more, it would not result in successful negotiations, but rather in the end of his political career. Netanyahu does not have anything to give; otherwise, he would have given it to the Americans and received something in return. Those leaders are not strong enough to pull out a miracle. History is not on their side; not now.
I will be glad to be proven wrong!
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!