Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Israeli-Palestinian talks: perpetual motion

The too common style of 'evenhandedly' blaming both sides is casuistry and should be labelled as such

"The secret of perpetual motion eludes scientists but sometimes seems close to being grasped by those involved in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process. That process has too often been about avoiding peace rather than about achieving it. Movement with no other purpose except to suggest something useful is being done mocks the Palestinians, who have been waiting for more than a generation for a measure of justice.
It is important that the responsibility for this failure is assigned correctly, with the greatest part belonging to Israel, the next largest share to the United States and only the smallest portion to the Palestinians. They have been difficult and sometimes slippery negotiators, and they may – it is arguable – have missed some serious opportunities in the past. But there are two points that must always be borne in mind with the Palestinians: they are the aggrieved party; and they are by far the weakest party.
The too common style of "evenhandedly" blaming both sides is casuistry and should be labelled as such. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, clearly set out to change things after he took over. He has been industrious. His visit to Jerusalem this week is his 10th in a year and his third in a month. There is talk of a "framework agreement" that could come soon. A 160-strong US team headed by a marine general has been working on the security requirements of Israel and Palestine.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has spoken of taking any proposals to the Arab League, perhaps a sign he thinks there may be some, and knows that if there are, he would need international support. The Israeli right, meanwhile, vents its anger by such moves as voting for the annexation of land along the border of the West Bank with Israel. Maybe they, too, think that something is going on.
Yet pessimism must remain the default position. Mr Kerry has made a new start but he has made it with advisers like Martin Indyk, who lean toward the Israeli view and have been associated with failure in the past.
He has made it at a time when the Israeli and the Palestinian publics are disillusioned and uninterested, with Israelis, in particular, feeling even more isolated in a region wracked by war and political upheaval than they normally do. And he has made it at a time when the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, no enthusiast for a Palestinian settlement anyway, both remains reluctant and has some fresh leverage over his American allies.
The Israelis have created such a ruckus over the tentative American rapprochement with Iran that they may have convinced the Americans that they should consult Israeli interests with special care on other matters. Not that they don't do that in any case."

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