Monday, April 07, 2014

Israel Palestine Peace Talks

Is it all Sec. Kerry's fault as some pro-Israel commentators claim or should we praise him for his courage so far? No doubt Sec. Kerry could have been more guarded in showing any kind of optimism early in the negotiations. As Israeli leader Tzipi Livni suggested he might have as well allowed Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to run on their own rather getting in between. Or as some commentators rightly criticize, Sec. Kerry shouldn't have invested so much to commit the cardinal mistake of 'being party to the negotiations' rather than being a strictly mediator when he offered the byzantine Pollard deal.

But that is all water under the bridge. To be fair Sec. Kerry did achieve few things. He was able to conduct the diplomacy without any leakages for so long. That is not a mean achievement given the world wide media focus on this issue. Palestinians are wrong when they claim that these negotiations did not produce anything - what about scores of prisoners freed so far and relatively slow pace of settlement in occupied territory? And what true price Palestinians have paid additionally in these months while negotiations are going on? Doesn't seem like any price - their rights of going to world bodies remain as they are and in fact Palestine executed those rights in applying for 15 international bodies.  

Truth is both parties are not mature to visualize and realize a longer term peace. Israel sees itself in a stronger position from a tactical point of view and does not see any reasons to compromise. Whereas though Palestine is on a weaker wicket, it assumes that with every passing day in the integrated world with Internet, it would be in a position to move world public opinion more and more in it's favor. Who is right then? Are Israeli Right wingers right to think that Israel can simply withdraw from a position of strength leaving behind scraps for a perennially weak Palestinian state unable to stand on its own? Sure Israel can do that in years to come and for a minute we can keep aside the morality of such an act as well, especially considering how the world heaped 'injustice on Jews' for centuries. But how does that address Israel's problem of growing Arabs born in Israel? Or for sure world opinion turning against it? Imagine a world in post-Obama America where contours of World Politics are determined more and more by Asia, slowly recovering Europe and many other non-Americans countries; all sympathetic to Palestinian cause. (Obama or his successors, they better do no tie America's future to defend increasingly indefensible position of Israel. Conservative Israeli backers in America are blind to believe that American democratic process is so corrupt that larger Americans would not recognize the folly of toeing Israeli line at a great cost to this great country.)

What is clear though however, Palestinians not to have any sanity in understanding hopelessness of their future country when Israel unilaterally withdraws from some patch-work of land and basically undermines sustainability of an independent Palestinian permanently. Israel withdrew from Gaza, what happened? Have Palestinians emerged stronger? Not at all. Divisive politics among Palestinians still kept them weak at the negotiation table. Neither Arafat had nor the current leadership of Palestinians have leadership qualities which can clinch the peace deal.

Probably that is what Sec. Kerry needs to recognize - fundamentally Palestinians are incapable of  undertaking any serious peace compromise. At best what can be desired is day-to-day compromises without any larger picture initiatives. Palestinians are more likely to get a 'kick' from a meaningless legal victory in the court of global opinion than real improvements in lives of common people. And for Israeli's what needs to be understood is 'forces which are against peace deal' for narrow political advantage are alive and kicking.

So what can Sec. Kerry do then? May be as Tzipi Livni says, let the two parties negotiate on their own and USA focuses on other international issues to gain leverage over Israel. For example, if America demonstrates that it is serious in locking down Iranian nuke program, it will have salutary effects on these middle-east negotiations. That seems to the way forward rather than America getting bogged down with intransigence and petty tactics of these two parties. 

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