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Friday
Sep242010

The Top 5 Reasons Why The Current Talks Will Fail

1. Hamas is not at the table.

Ever since their surprise victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Hamas has been marginalized by Israel and the international community. Despite their obstinate refusal to abandon violence as a means of resistance Hamas were democratically elected and hold more seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council than any other Palestinian party. Following the failed US-sponsored coup of 2007, they took complete control of the Gaza Strip. The idea that Fatah, a minority Palestinian party, can negotiate peace with Israel without Hamas and without the Gaza Strip, is simply a non-starter.

2. Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in peace.


The current Israeli Prime Minister is the most hawkish Israeli Prime Minister of this generation. His real interest in negotiating with the Palestinians is to get concessions from the Obama Administration vis-a-vis Iran. He was strong-armed into publicly accepting the principle of a 'demilitarized Palestinian State,' but he doesn't really believe in Palestinian statehood according to any earthly definition of the term.

3. Israel is incapable of agreeing to a viable Palestinian State.

When Israel talks about a Palestinian State, what they actually mean is pockets of Palestinian autonomy broken up by settlement blocs in the West Bank. This does not include control over natural resources, borders, air space, sea ports, or electromagnetic spectrum. And, of course, Jerusalem is not on the table at all. This is more or less what Ehud Barak offered in the so-called "generous offer" at Camp David and it is simply insufficient for a viable Palestinian State. If these talks ever do progress to the offer stage, Netanyahu will certainly offer less than Barak did in 2000.

4. Barack Obama no longer has the political capital to effectively pressure Israel.

The story of Obama's first two years in office has been one of squandered political capital. But even when he had all the political capital imaginable, the U.S. president seemed incapable of convincing Israel to do anything that Netanyahu deemed contrary to the interests of Israel's governing Right-wing coalition. Add to this the political realities of the Israel Lobby and you'll understand why Obama can't do much more than make speeches at the UN.

5. The settlement freeze will expire.

One of the major downfalls of the Oslo Accords was the fact that while Israel was supposedly negotiating the details of a two-state agreement, they doubled the size of their settlements in the West Bank. Even assuming that the U.S. is able to pull off a coup and get Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze (a prospect that is looking less and less likely), the freeze will de-facto end at the end of September. This is the only precondition that the Palestinians have for negotiations. If Israel starts building again in the West Bank, whether or not the Palestinians officially stay at the table, these talks will be over.     

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