No right thinking administration stages a “Peace Process Show” at the White House absent some baseline or, in the parlance, “framework” agreed on in advance of the show. In this case the framework is likely nothing more than the agreement to negotiate identified issues absent the specifics of the potential trade offs. In other words, a negotiation has been completed, the result of which is to agree to commence a negotiation within certain broad guidelines. The parties’ reaching an agreement to meet every two weeks is front page news. Such is the negotiating history of this conflict.
Can they do IT this time? The answer is a perpetual maybe with maybe being the most optimistic of rational assessments.
Israel wants recognition in the wider Arab world, security guarantees, defensible boarders and Palestinian and Arab control of terrorism. Israel is tired, very, very tired.
The Palestinians of President Abbas want territory, Jerusalem and money, lots of money. Most critically however, President Abbas needs an ideologically defensible deal. Can decades of Palestinian and Arab hatred, indoctrination and propaganda aimed at Israel be replaced with generalized acceptance of a peace deal? Maybe!
The U.S. wants a diplomatic victory, they have tied issues as wide ranging as Afghanistan and weapons proliferation to a peace deal. The current administration has sent signals that Iran is better dealt once a peace deal is in place. That position assumes that a peace deal broadens the options for “dealing” with Iran and the acceptance of such actions. The logic of that position is tenuous at best as Iran is well positioned to kill a peace deal by way of Hamas and Hiz’bAllah.
Who wants what is complex: The Arab League, The Islamic Congress, Russia and the E.U. primary parties each, with some degree of political and ideological capital at stake and some with a significant investment in the failure of negotiations; predominantly ideological, in some cases economic. The removal of the “Palestinian Question” represents the potential for the removal of a major point of deflection for the attention of indigenous Arab populations.
Will positions firmly held for decades be truly open to negotiation? In the case of Israel one has only to review some of Manachem Begin’s writings to evaluate the scope of Israeli concessions. It remains to be seen in the Palestinian context. Will Arab sponsors of Palestine support a deal that takes the “Palestinian Question” off the political map and motivates potential focus on issues of internal governance? Will a deal simply be viewed as a new stage from which to continue to pressure the existence of Israel? Is there any end to the demands? Will the deal really be a deal? The history of deals in this conflict does not motivate optimism.
Will Palestinians recognize the ‘right of return” issue as a security issue for Israel? Is there a rational way to physically connect the West Bank and Gaza? What of Jerusalem and border security?
While the Israeli’s are tired, they are also of the opinion that each and every concession made by Israel has been met with more demands, no credit, continuing political pressure, no change in fundamental Palestinian positions and ongoing violence. They are not just tired of the Palestinian side of the equation but of the unrelenting pressure and double standards they have been subjected to in the Arab World, Europe, U.N. and throughout the international community. To force the Israeli’s to reach the opinion that a true peace deal is not possible represents a dangerous state of affairs. We can reasonably postulate that in the event a deal fails Hamas, Hiz’bAllah, Iran or Syria will provide the necessary excuse for Israel to seek a more aggressive solution to the problem, likely military and likely brutal. Tired people don’t always make the best judgments.
Can you execute a negotiation to end a conflict when there is no clear winner? While the push and push back has gone on for decades there is no clarity, no declarable winner in any traditional frame of context.
The Palestinians are not a cohesive political entity, split between Fatah and Hamas, each with their own slice of territory to govern. One currently prepared to negotiate, one avowed in it’s commitment to Israeli destruction. Is the Hamas commitment a true commitment to genocide or simply the harshest of negotiating positions? The former is, unfortunately, the likely answer in terms of both Hamas and Hiz’bAllah.
Critical players exist outside of a framework; Iran, Syria, and Hiz’bAllah, Hiz’bAllah. There is no indication from these players that they see a peace deal being in their interests. The eventual signal will be clear, if violence escalates dramatically on the heels of a peace deal or even the perception of progress toward a deal and President Abbas is in no position politically or otherwise to control the violence the Israeli motivation for a deal will evaporate in anger and recrimination.
Will a peace deal have any effect on the two, going on three generations of Arabs and Palestinians who have been completely indoctrinated to hatred of Israel and the Jews? Can a political solution overcome nearly universal generational hatred? Will the massive global anti Israeli “infrastructure” drift away in a fog of self congratulation or simply find new motivation to continue?
Finally, it is worth note that while Prime Minister Netanyahu is roundly castigated as a right wing ideologue, the last significant deal that held was the peace deal with Egypt negotiated by Manachem Begin; clearly on the right and as tough as they come. The failures of the Israeli left in terms of the peace process are many; perhaps only a deal from a right led coalition has any chance of acceptance in Israel and serious consideration in the general Arab world.
Don’t get your hopes up. Maybe is, unfortunately, as good as it gets!