By Noam Sheizaf, 972Mag
To register their recent success, Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration destroyed whatever was achieved in the last two decades. For the first time since the 1991 Madrid Conference, the starting point for the negotiations are the positions of the Israeli right.
The headlines celebrating the fact that “Israelis and Palestinians are talking again” were misleading. The Palestinian Authority is no more than a regional council in a territory controlled by Israel. Since the PA is completely dependent on Israel for almost all of its functions, Israelis and Palestinians are talking all the time, including on the political level.
Envoys and ministers on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as Yitzhak Molcho or Shimon Peres, have met with Palestinian counterparts many times in recent years, discussing issues ranging from borders to security arrangements. The Israeli demand to ignore all previous understandings and the insistence on continuing to take over more land in the West Bank through settlement construction and other projects kept the talks from moving up to the next levels, let alone reaching a final status agreement.
But the Palestinian Authority is dependent on the United States, Israel and Europe, and when the administration showed enough determination, President Abbas could not hold on to its resistance to discussing a final status agreement. Still, it should be noted that Secretary of State Kerry’s much-celebrated success did not involve any change in the actual positions of the parties, especially Israel’s. This is not 1992-1993, when the diplomatic challenge was about getting the two sides to meet. Today’s questions are about the nature of the talks, and this is where the current failure has been exposed.
The ability of the administration to take pride in launching formal peace talks come at a very high price. Since 1993, every round of talks used previous negotiations as their terms of reference. Political support for the process may have decreased on both sides, but the gap between the two parties has actually narrowed all this time. In the last decade it became clear to the Israeli mainstream that a solution would be based on the 1967 borders, and that Jerusalem would either be a joint capital or a divided one.
All along the way, Prime Minister Netanyahu presented a firm opposition to the peace process both on principle – rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state – and due to various territorial aspects. Netanyahu and his senior collation partners even rejected the Clinton Parameters (since those included ceding 94-96 percent of the West Bank and most of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians) let alone Olmert’s proposal in Annapolis.
The second Obama administration basically accepted Netanyahu’s position, allowing Israel to ignore the terms of reference for the talks and all previous rounds of negotiations. According to all reports, Kerry replaced all that was accomplished in the past with “a creative solution:” the U.S. was to present some aspects of the terms of reference in a statement ahead of the talks …read more