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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
What's likely to
come of the latest U.S.-brokered "proximity talks" between Israel and
the Palestinians? (Not much.)
are receiving this email because you have requested news, facts and analysis
about Israel and the Mideast conflict.
Friend of FLAME:
Before I jump into the disaster that is the current Israeli-Palestinian-U.S.
peace talk engagement, let's take a moment to celebrate a major
victory for Israel.
Last week the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) admitted the Jewish state to this exclusive club of
31 developed nations. Despite Israel's superiority as an economic
power and despite at least 20 years of lobbying for membership, we
have watched lesser economic forces, such as Turkey and the Czech
Republic, gain eager acceptance.
While membership in the OECD will bring few concrete benefits to
Israel, the symbolism of the move is huge. As commentator
Sever Plocker wrote in Ynetnews.com, "The confirmation of Israel's
membership in OECD indicates that the developed world recognizes the
fact that we are an industrial, advanced country; a democratic and
competitive state that shares the basic values of the wealthy west.
. . This isn't about economics, it's about history."
On the other hand, the ill-fated, U.S.-brokered "proximity talks"
between Israel and the Palestinians have begun under George Mitchell's
watchful eye. It is commentary enough on President Obama's lackluster
results in the Middle East that after decades of face-to-face negotiations
between Israel and the Palestinians, these peace talks have devolved
into the U.S. shuttling proposals between parties camped in separate
Some might wonder why the U.S.---to say nothing of Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas---have committed
to a format so unlikely to advance Middle East peace.
This week's FLAME Hotline, by Yossi Alpher, lays out the answers succinctly.
In short, don't get high hopes for substantive progress during these
talks. Nonetheless, Israel certainly has much to gain from participating---even
if nothing more than time to assuage the U.S. and Western Europe.
Let's hope Netanyahu is successful in buying it cheaply, while at
the same time losing no figurative or actual ground due to
pressure from an increasingly impatient Barack Obama.
As you'll read below,
the Palestinians will likely continue futilely insisting on
the so-called "right of return" of ancestors of Arabs who left
Israel after Israel's 1948 war of independence. Never,
however, do the Arabs acknowledge the plight of, let alone responsibility
for, an equal number of Jews who were driven from Arab nations.
FLAME's most recent hasbarah (clarifying message) on
this subject balances the scales: "The
Forgotten Refugees: Why does nobody care about the Jewish refugees
from Arab lands?" This piece is now being
published in newspapers and magazines with more than 5 million
circulation, including college campus newspapers. I hope you'll
review this message and pass it on to friends. If you agree
that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's
behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. I hope you'll
consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500,
$250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is
tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html.
Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel
gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President
Obama, and from the American people.
Proximity talks: Just
What Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. can expect from
the latest round of negotiations
by Yossi Alpher, May 11, 2010, Bitterlemons.com
- The Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks beginning now will almost
certainly end in failure. There is little room for optimism regarding
these talks or any other form of peace process that brings together
the political camps of PM Binyamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud
Abbas. The gap between the core beliefs of Netanyahu and Abbas is
simply too wide. The former wants to hold on to "united Jerusalem"
and the Jordan Valley and is bound by his right-wing coalition to
an even more demanding territorial concept, if not to effective
neutralization of the two-state concept. His settler allies are
sure to look for opportunities to sabotage the talks. Netanyahu
himself is building up an "incitement" file with which
to batter the Palestinians, even as Israel's own problem of incitement
against Palestinians grows under a reactionary government.
- For his part, Abbas insists on the right of return and exclusive
Arab control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem--both inevitably
deal-breakers. And between his own Fateh hawks and Hamas, Abbas
is constrained even further.
- To his credit, Netanyahu prefers direct negotiations. It is Abbas
who appears to fear face-to-face meetings that might, when they
fail, compromise his standing in the eyes of his extremists, and
who has linked even his agreement to a mere four months of proximity
talks to Arab League approval. Here we have not one but three steps
backward for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: indirect rather
than direct talks, an Arab veto and a short time limit.
- Netanyahu needs these negotiations more than Abbas, and he needs
them to last as long as possible. Israel now confronts an active
school of thought within the American military that blames the Israeli-Palestinian
stalemate for US military difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan and
for Iranian and Hizballah propaganda successes in the Arab world.
To the extent Israel is held to blame for the stalemate--Abbas,
who should be sharing the blame, seemingly gets a pass from his
fellow Muslims--it is sustaining serious damage to its image in
the halls of power in Washington. The new peace process, however
problematic and partial, helps mitigate that damage by enabling
US generals in the field to point to at least a temporary US success
in cultivating Arab- Israel peace.
- In the Netanyahu government, only Defense Minister Ehud Barak
appears to understand the gravity of this new linkage equation.
Netanyahu thinks everything is fine with America because American
Jews still support Israel. Hence he is just plain lucky to have
these proximity talks. Under these circumstances, he is not likely
to recognize the urgent need to reorganize his coalition and replace
right-wingers with centrists.
- The advent of proximity talks follows some 15 months of mediation
mistakes by the US. Yet the only mitigating factors in this otherwise
bleak picture appear to be President Barack Obama's commitment and
the determination of his peace emissary, George Mitchell. If Obama
is indeed readying his own final status proposal and/or an international
peace conference for the day the failure of these talks can no longer
be denied, he should direct his attention away from the looming
Netanyahu- Abbas failure --a wise mediator will not step into that
huge gap with "bridging" proposals--and toward the only
success story in town: the Palestinian Authority's bottom- up state-building
program in the West Bank.
- American efforts should focus not only on the hapless task of
squeezing success out of doomed proximity talks, but on the inevitable
political endgame suggested by the Palestinians' successful state-building
effort: international recognition of their state followed by a concerted
effort to focus Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the issues of
inter-state borders and security, including in Jerusalem.
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