On Russia in World Affairs

A Two-State Dilemma: Israel, Palestine, and Peace Talks

November 4, 2013

Though kept under wraps, the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have had a disturbing record so far.  Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the Palestinian envoys to the U.S.-brokered peace negotiations with Israel have resigned amidst continuing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Unlike previous series of peace talks, this round has been veiled in secrecy. According to the Middle East expert and author of “The Brokers of Deceit,” Rashid Khalidi, there are three reasons why the ongoing talks are unlikely to yield the expected outcome of cementing a peace deal. The first reason is U.S. domestic politics, i.e., elections for congress, which will have a vast impact on the Obama Administration’s position in negotiations. Second, the weakness of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which does not have much room for maneuver in bargaining with Israel. And third, the uncompromising stance of Right-wing Israelis has made it impossible for the Palestinians to find common ground.  


Photo Credit: NBCnews


In August 2013, Israel and Palestine embarked on talks aimed at resolving a half-century-long stalemate between the two nations over the future of a Palestinian state. With the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, Israel bolstered Fatah movement’s position among Palestinians, who have grown quite skeptical about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over the years. Yet, amid continued instability in the Middle East, the successful outcome of the negotiations—especially given the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem— is fraught with uncertainty. As Al Jazeera's senior political analyst,Marwan Bishara, opined: “it's ironic that they [Israelis] are releasing the prisoners while they continue settlements.” Likewise, recent polls indicate a split amongst the Palestinians over the positive outcomes of talks, while the overwhelming of majority of the polled are fairly confident that the negotiations will not produce a peace treaty.


The Israeli government gave an impetus to the peace talks with Palestine as 26 of 104 Palestinian prisoners were freed from Ayalon prison in central Israel in the summer of 2013. This step has raised spirits amongst Palestinians, who greeted the convicts with jubilation in Ramallah and Gaza. But this move also sparked discontent within Israeli society; many in Israel do not see imprisoned Palestinians as political detainees, but withdrawing to the 1967 borders and are in favor of continuing West Bank settlements, Benjamin Netanyahu's government is unlikely to strike a definitive deal with Palestine this time around. In case talks fail (and they most likely will), Israel will blame Palestinian leaders for their intransigence.


The major source of pessimism surrounding the talks, in fact, has been the lack of progress since the 1990s, when the Oslo Accords were concluded. As Yossi Beilin, one of the leading figures in the Oslo process, maintained: “For both sides the current situation is very, very comfortable … All of us are playing the game. Many meetings, very serious, good relationship, all issues are on the agenda, fighting the lunatics on both sides, and it’s beautiful. The only problem is that there will be an end to it in the coming months, and the admission of failure might be devastating.” Thus, unless the three obstacles delineated by Khalidi are addressed, there is every reason to be skeptical about the outcome of these ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

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