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Halfway through timeframe, Palestinian-Israeli talks are going nowhere

The two parties haven’t met in almost a month, and Israeli politicians are now openly discussing the success of maintaining the status quo. Even the crisis with the European Union is over.

Roughly halfway through the current round of negotiations, the talks between Israeli and Palestinians negotiators have hit a new low point. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told A-Shams Radio station that the two teams haven’t met since November 5th. He added that the talks are so futile that Palestinians are better off turning to the UN right away. Erekat also recently submitted his resignation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, although Abbas has not yet accepted the resignation.

Both parties, it seems, are now waiting for a bridging proposal that the US team, led by special envoy Martin Indyk, is said to put on the table in January. However, there is widespread consensus in the Israeli political system that the entire process will lead to nothing. Following the deal over the Iranian nuclear program, a senior minister told Maariv’s political reporter Shalom Yerushalmi this week that the widespread assumption in Jerusalem is that no pressure will be placed on the government by Washington on the Palestinian issue.

Click here for +972’s full coverage of the current round of peace talks

People who recently met with Israeli ministers from Netanayhu’s own party recently saw with their own eyes little patience or sympathy for the American-led effort. Visitors who met with one of the most important ministers in the cabinet were recently told that the status quo is “perfectly fine,” and that only foreigners and leftists feel an urgency to challenge it. I’ve been arguing for several years that Netanyahu’s government(s) made a strategic choice to maintain the status quo for as long as they could; only recently have we begun hearing Israeli officials stating this openly.

In many ways, the current round of talks was constructed by the American negotiating team so that they leave little chance for success. For several years, the Palestinians demanded that Netanyahu’s government accept the terms of reference which were agreed upon in previous rounds of talks, including a solution based on 1967 borders with agreed-upon land swaps and a territorial compromise in Jerusalem. Netanyahu refused, and the talks didn’t resume until the US forced the Palestinians into negotiations “without preconditions,” thus relieving Netanyahu of political pressure, which allowed him to enter a process without actually committing to anything. Talks for the sake of talks.

It all comes down to the American and European decision not to confront the Israeli government on the Palestinian issue (since the costs will always outweigh the benefits on this front). Actual steps that could hasten end of the occupation (such as settlement removal, for example), are not even on the table. All we see on the ground are particular “gestures” – like the occasional roadblock removed or the release of a handful of prisoners – steps which can be overturned in a moment’s decision.

The much-debated European Union steps against the settlements has run its course as well. Although the Israeli government refused to sign any declaration regarding the status of the occupied territories, it will continue enjoy European grants. For a moment, the EU’s measures on this issue led to a more honest debate in Israel over the cost of the occupation. The conversation subsided, however, the moment an agreement was reached. The Israeli Right can once again claim that all of the Left’s prophecies regarding Israel’s international isolation were nothing but exaggerations. To a certain extent, it feels like the guidelines were always more about distancing the EU from involvement in the settlements than about Israeli policies.

Yet if anyone is interested in putting an end to the trends on the ground, they should know that a crisis is inevitable. Without it, the Israeli government (or the Israeli public for that matter) will have no incentive to enter the difficult process to end the occupation. It doesn’t matter how creative the new American proposal will be, nor how much the Obama administration will move towards Netanyahu’s positions. Support and understanding for the Israeli government should only begin when such a process is underway, and not a moment earlier. Otherwise, it will only produce the opposite result: securing the comfort zone of the status quo.

Related:
EU reopens debate on occupation within Israeli elites
What the EU settlement ‘compromise’ will mean on the ground

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    COMMENTS

    1. Greater Israel is inevitable. WB Palestinian resistance, uprising, frustration, destruction of Jewish civilization, take your pick, will be seen as culturally, racially, socially inevitable as well.

      Happy US Thanksgiving. You’re out there. Many people are glad of this.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        “Greater Israel is inevitable.”

        We’re already there. Now we need to figure out how 2 peoples that totally despise one another can live together in the same physical space.

        Reply to Comment
        • I think that is about right. There are Palestinian Israeli citizens, and those Jewish Israelis willing to invest some of their lives in reaching out towards the occupied. These are the only ameliorating factors I see for the future, perhaps with jurisprudence as well.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            “Palestinian Israelis” never existed, do not exist at this moment and, alhamdulillah, will not exist in the future, exactly as “Israeli Palestinians”

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >how 2 peoples that totally despise one another

          Do not project you petty racism onto others.

          Reply to Comment
        • sh

          They already are living in the same physical space. We need to add the word safely to that sentence.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      The two-state remains the most rational solution.

      Its just a matter of time, and EFFORT on the part of the left and liberal-left, to put it into practice.

      The Israeli right’s dream is NOT to annex all of the West Bank, but to annex area C permanently, and then grant Palestinian full sovereignty (no military) and responsibility permanently into the isolated enclaves.

      If they can’t achieve that, then they will seek to take advantage of any conflict to incrementally remove Palestinians from the West Bank, to Jordan, and then fund Jordan with tens of billions of dollars for Palestinian restoration fund.

      There is no single state movement anywhere in fact.

      If democracy is of any value at all (consent of the governed), then it would take at least a sizeable minority of both communities SELECTING parties that advocate for a single state, AND a sizeable super-majority that would consent to a single state.

      Both are far from even being contemplated.

      Reply to Comment
      • I don’t see Greater Israel as formally One State for some time. But those enclaves under something like PA control will be annulled by Israeli security as needed, so even the enclaves are part of Greater Israel. To present, in there is no indication that the trickle expulsion of prior residents from area C will abate. Pushing all unto Jordan is indeed the rightest hope. If as much money would be given to Jordan as you say, this might be best for those living occupation. But Jordan has repeatedly shown a fear of internal destabilization under such an outcome; the incoming population would not be attached to prior social/political controlling mechanisms, and there is a belief that, if given voting rights, this population would move in the same direction as the Jordanian cities electorate, presently majority Islamic.

        The right nationalists will say the “Palestinians” did it to themselves, as they watch the last backs walk off. The Yesh Din reports on this site show otherwise.

        But the rule of law has been retarded considerably; within the Israeli polity, I think this the only hope, as the settlement coalition, which includes right nationalists who say they are not married to settlements, will not abide equal protection of Arab Israeli citizens either. I see the Asylum Refugee Detention Camp Case as an early test of how the High Court will stand on non-Jewish rights, legal obligation, and due process. In my view, there is still implicit battle over the standing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The Knesset is not the people, nor the people the Knesset.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Tomer

      fakestinyans never existed and never will. The Jordanians that were disenfranchised by their own Government post 6-day war are well…… just that – Jordanians that were disenfranchised post 6-day war.

      There is no logic for the indigenous Jews to recognise this false “P” nation or any of its ridiculous “claims”.

      Reply to Comment
    4. David T.

      “akestinyans never existed and never will.”

      I guess that neither you nor your ancestors were citizens of state of Palestine under mandbefore like the real indigenous Jewish “Palestinians” or I should say the real indigenous Jewish Ottomans in Palestine. So “Palestinian” is actually a real nation in the sence of nationality and citizenship. Jews on the other hand … well, you can’t convert to nations, can you?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Samuel

      “well, you can’t convert to nations, can you?”

      Actually you can. Have you heard of nationalisation of new citizen ceremonies?

      Conversion, nationalisation, hey it’s all symbolic and it is all just ceremonies. We the human species just seem to thrive on ceremonies and symbolism. Go figure …

      Reply to Comment
    6. David T.

      “Actually you can. Have you heard of nationalisation of new citizen ceremonies?”

      These citizens didn’t became part of the nation through religious conversion, Mr. Strawman.

      Reply to Comment
      • Samuel

        It does not matter how one becomes part of a nation, Mr comprehension challenged.

        The point is that contrary to your allegation, you CAN become part of the nation.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Average American

      The talks aren’t supposed to go anywhere. They are a stall while Eretz Israel continues. And Eretz Israel’s borders are undefined, if anyone hasn’t noticed.

      The Likud party’s position and policies haven’t changed since it was headed by Begin the Irgun Terrorist. And USA’s involvement with a heavily un-honest-broker team is only to get any advantage possible for guess who, for Israel.

      Have you seen the Area C maps? It’s a joke. And again with the redefining of words: it’s not The West Bank, it’s not Palestinian Occupied Territory, don’t call it that, that makes you sound insensitive to Jews, you don’t want to be insensitive to Jews do you? So it’s Sumaria, or Judea, or Area C.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Samuel

      “And Eretz Israel’s borders are undefined, if anyone hasn’t noticed.”

      Go tell this to your good buddy David. He is pretending that Israel’s borders ARE defined. The fact is that they are not defined, like you say, because the Arabs are unwilling (and they were always unwilling) to recognise Israel within ANY borders. So if THEY say that everything is up for grabs by them, the least we can say is that we too have the right to ask for more secure borders. And we WILL get what we want. You guys can lament about it till Kingdom come. We WILL get what we want.

      Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        So that’s the real attitude behind the “talks”. As I thought. As is obvious to anyone.

        Israel is speaking out of both sides of its mouth, pretending to negotiate when their objectives are already set. That’s called deceit. But that’s ok with you to get what you want.

        What DO you want? Where will this end?

        Reply to Comment
        • Samuel

          We want more secure borders than the 1967 boundaries which were just armistice lines. Clue: look at the two peace offers made by the two Ehuds of Israel in 2000/2001 and 2008 which the Arabs rejected.

          Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            nsttnocontentcomment

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            I’ve read a few articles on this now, including from Olmert’s and Abbas’s memoirs. It looks like they were very close to a deal, many of the big items agreed to, even Jerusalem.

            But not the West Bank and not return of Arabs. Olmert wanted to have most of the West Bank (WB being already acknowledged as Palestinian land), and allow a maximum of 5,000 Arabs to return over 5 years (out of 700,000 Arabs pushed out in Nakba) but not to their own original land. These were arrogant positions for Olmert to take, offering peanuts, bullying Abbas to sign right now. Of course Abbas didn’t accept.

            So from the Arab side, the Arab negotiator first had to talk to a criminal (Olmert under corruption trial at the time), then had to talk to a religious fanatic (Netanyahu takes over after Olmert), who brought their own different twists and gotchas to the Arabs.

            You can’t keep saying the Arabs didn’t accept peace. That is misleading for your own purposes. You should say the Arabs didn’t accept Olmert trying to shortchange Abbas and pressure him into it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Samuel

            “Olmert wanted to have most of the West Bank”

            Are you for real? Olmert wanted to keep 3% of the West Bank and offered land swaps in lieu of the 3%. As far as allowing refugees to return, whatever he offered is too much.

            Gosh you guys are liars. Or are you just this ignorant? Surely not …

            Reply to Comment
    9. Average American

      Ok, 2.8 percent of WB fertile farmland for Olmert and dry dust in the Negev for Abbas, (what a great bargain!), but most of WB to remain under Israeli sovereignty in a clever wordplay that if accepted would have meant Abbas transferred sovereignty from Palestine to Israel. In this case I’m afraid Israel’s reputation for twists and trickery is deserved.

      Reply to Comment
      • Samuel

        No point in arguing with idiots who make things up as they go along.

        Reply to Comment
        • Average Americans

          Nor with criminals and religious fanatics.

          Reply to Comment
          • Samuel

            Average American: “Olmert wanted to have most of the West Bank”

            Samuel:
            “Only 3% with land swaps in lieu of the 3%”

            Average American:
            “Ok, 2.8 percent of WB fertile farmland for Olmert and dry dust in the Negev for Abbas”

            What is the attitude that comes across here from THIS average american?

            It comes across as: “I hate Israel. It stands convicted even before anything is said. And no matter what is said, I will pin something bad on Israel”

            What is the use of talking to people like that?

            Reply to Comment
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