Monday, September 21, 2009

Strange Negotiating Methods

Avi Issacharoff explains why the three-way meeting of Obama-Abbas-Netanyahu, scheduled for tomorrow, is a sham:

The summit serves, first and foremost, to provide the Obama administration with a much sought photo-op: Three leaders shaking hands, seemingly getting back to negotiations. This would come against the backdrop of the White House's resounding failure to force Israel's agreement to a complete settlement freeze or to persuade Arab states to make even tentative steps toward normalization with Israel, so a picture of the three leaders together will look like an extraordinary achievement. It might even help Obama and his administration to get the stalled peace process moving, however slowly.
This is precisely the reason why the PA realized that although Abbas set the precondition of a complete settlement freeze, as the United States demanded, he must now, according to that demand, rescind his condition without getting anything in return. The talks Abbas held in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and in Jordan with King Abdullah II brought home to him just how desperately the Americans need this summit.
It seems to me worse than a sham. I could be wrong, since the general public isn't privy to each and every detail about the negotiations, but so far as I've been able to follow, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were chugging merrily along for a couple of years, albeit without reaching agreement, until about a year ago when the Palestinians decided to wait and see who would win the elections in the US and Israel. When Obama won they hoped for greater American pressure on Israel, and when Netanyahu ended up as Israeli prime minister, these hopes rose more: Surely Obama would put pressure on Netanyahu to be more forthcoming to the Palestinians.

Obama obliged by requiring a settlement freeze, a position eagerly adopted by the Palestinians who now insist there can be no negotiations without one, even though such negotiations were previously the norm. The Americans thought they could simply change the terms of negotiations. We're big, we can dictate, they seemed to believe.

The world doesn't work that way, as you'd think everybody knows.

The Obama position meant pretending Bush-era committments had never happened - a blatant untruth; and it demanded of the Israelis a major change of policy regarding East Jerusalem. So far as I'm aware no Israeli government has ever accepted any curb on construction in East Jerusalem. It's conceivable that Israel might agree to some partition of Jerusalem as part of a full peace agreement with the Palestinians. It's not conceivable that Israel would accept such an outcome as a precondition for the resumption of talks.

Once the Americans staked their position, the Palestinians couldn't demand less, with the result that negotiations are now impossible; they haven't been happening since last September, and seem unlikely to happen anytime soon.

If this reading is true, it's mostly the doing of the American administration. Bravo!

2 comments:

Victor said...

Sounds about right. The natural extension of the Obama position after Cairo, if the Israelis did not accept his conditions, was to incrementally sanction Israel, and to do so progressively Israel relented. This is what I think most of the world was led to believe would happen.

Why do you think Obama is not pursuing the bully strategy?

Does this mean the American foreign policy establishment has decided that a strong Israel with occupation is more important than a weak Israel and a Palestinian state?

I was having a conversation with some unaffiliated, Conservative, Brestlaver and Chabadnik Jews over Rosh Hashanah - an eclectic mix. It was very surprising how uniform and (in the left's language) hawkish/rightwing/Likudnik the overall Jewish American position on Israel is (and even more so on Iran), at least from my non-representative sample.

Some of them were much older than I, in the 50s, 60s. One had met Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan at a Bible competition prize ceremony in the 60s. This guy, a Moroccan/Venezuelan Jew mentioned something that struck me... how after the right in Israel rose to power in 1977 (?), the left changed the language of the territories.

Prior to '77, everyone called them the Liberated Territories. After '77, they started to become Occupied Territories, Palestinian Territories, etc., at a time when the Palestinian national movement was still practically non-existent.

A small example, I know. One can't help but think, however, that our biggest wounds are self inflicted.

Another interesting tidbit: After '67, a Jew could go anywhere he wanted in the Territories without any fear of being attacked. He used to go with some yeshiva students to Nablus, I don't remember why. You could take your wife and two kids and drive to the center of Gaza or the Gaza beach for a picnic. The Arabs were so completely defeated, mentally, that they wouldn't dare look at a Jew the wrong way.

It's interesting, from my own personal experiences now, that while the Arabs seem to have recovered their motivation to kill Jews, many if not most still have this residual inferiority complex. I was first told of it by a Palestinian I was dating some years ago, in my more reckless times.

rob fletcher said...

Well, what will this conclude then??? I hope it will be something positive and constructive for our country as well.