Middle East Upheavals, Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate, Where Now?

President Obama has said at the General Assembly that “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN.” In that he is right. But he is also wrong that the existing stalemate can only be negotiated between the two parties. This is caused by Benjamin Netanyahu’s game of resistance to real honest negotiations, along with the Palestinian desire to not go to the table as long as Israel acts in a unilateral way with more and more settlements. This creates an almost impossible way forward if left in limbo and leaves frustration to simmer without a real solution.

Sadly, Netanyahu’s action in announcing the illegal building of 1,100 new settlement housing units in South Jerusalem, on the Palestinian side of the 1967 borders, shows he is not serious about true negotiations or a true “two state” solution (see yesterday’s article in the New York Times entitled “Israel Angers Palestinians With Plan for Housing“). It is an effort to sabotage the whole peace effort.

I share the view that peace will not be found via the UN membership or for that matter the agreement for member state observer status via the UN General Assembly alone. But any close analysis must conclude that the PLO does not have any realistic other options. If it starts negotiations and Israel continues new settlement, it would be impossible for the PLO authority to stand by and wait for all their land to be devolved over time.  Some analysts have stated it would turn the West Bank into Bantustans. With this I agree.

Both sides need to make concessions. That is also clear. The PLO needs to stop attacks on Israel and Israel needs to stop creating new settlements and indeed, best of all, pull down at least the so-called “illegal” settlements. But both sides refuse to act alone without some added guarantees.

My suggestion is for the Quartet and possibly others to back a specific set of necessary conditions to which each side must agreed and to set deadlines for agreement, and if progress is not made, to present a third party plan that would be structured in a way that both sides would have major inducements to agree.  Everyone keeps saying that an agreement can’t be “imposed” by a third party.  What then is left – the only outcome will be conflict and tragedy for all sides and a Middle East in turmoil.

Clearly, after more than a decade neither side seems willing politically to put forth any proposal or accept any proposal that would provide for a balanced and fair outcome for both sides.  Frankly, everyone knows what that truly “fair formula” is all about – but they just don’t want to give to get. They just want it all. In the past with some outside help, as at Camp David, some progress was made, but in the end it fell apart. The extreme politics now on both sides make the effort even more difficult. Yet those who say wait are playing a game of “Russian Roulette.”

One reality is that the Palestinians will likely, in the end, get their state recognized by the UN/GA. Second reality, Israel is already seeing by its intransigence and foolish policies increasing isolation around the world.  Recently an Israeli committee recommended a cut in their military expenditures in order to provide domestic social security for a nation experiencing economic inequality.

Thus, face-to-face negotiation will not work without outside forces to help make it work.  Already those forces exist for Israel in the changing landscape of the Middle East and in the strategic changes that are forming around the region. But the right-wing parties, especially in Israel and Gaza, are blind to those realities.

Since America, sadly due to the largely right-wing Israeli Lobby, can’t do it, that leaves a third party or grouping with the power to enforce or better entice a fair settlement on both.  Who then?  That party MUST be of such a nature that both sides recognize they are dealing with a known global leader backed by a wide group of countries or joint group of countries, that has no agenda for one side or the other, but insists that lasting peace be the only and necessary outcome.

Suggestions have been made that the EU might be that mediator or the Quartet, but with Putin in charge the Russians seem an odd bird for this role. There are other alternatives.  The French seem willing to help but Sarkozy is in trouble at home, while Turkey seems to want to take the leadership in the region but its motives are unclear. One key factor is to assure Israel that its security under any kind of peace deal is assured, and I might add the same for the new Palestinian state.  That, in the end, will require certain American guarantees.

There should be enough interest on the part of all “external” parties including Europe, America, and Middle East nations, for them to realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a time bomb waiting to happen which will engulf them all.  Already there are frantic efforts to get the parties together but it will not work without some kind of external pressure on both and a truly fair outcome.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

2 thoughts on “Middle East Upheavals, Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate, Where Now?

  1. Harry Blaney October 23, 2011 / 1:45 AM

    We need a new look at our overall perspective of the whole region and start to develop some new initiatives to help shape new alignments, develop new formal and informal alliances and institutions which will promote both security and economic cooperation.

    We need not least to address the Israel-Palestinian confrontation with a process that permits the key concerned countries to demand that both sides accept in the end a peace and set of agreements which both sides know they can live with and which puts in place assured development assistance and trade as an alternative to war and loss of any hope for growth and prosperity for the people in the region. This means agreement among America, the Europeans, the key Arab States and perhaps others towards a comprehensive package of incentives and sticks which, in the end, can’t be refused by any side.

    This will likely take years to fully be agreed upon given the unsettled state of the region and elections coming up in the U.S., Russia, France and Germany. But certain steps can be implemented to set the stage for a “full court press” for a comprehensive peace agreement. One key step must be a halt to settlements and some kind of end to terrorist attacks and to the isolation of or blocking of trade for the Palestinians.

  2. Bob Lamoree October 4, 2011 / 3:17 PM

    How many years have diplomats been trying to resolve the Israeli/Palestine mess? Is it any closer to settlement now than . . . whenever? Will it continue on end? If there’s a better term for the state of affairs between the two than ‘a conundrum’ it’s probably not printable.
    Why has this been such an unsoluable dilemma? I suggest the answer is both historical and political. Of course, the problem started when European Jews, persecuted, unwanted, desperate … emmigrated in hords to sieze their Biblical homeland. But the process displaced a people, the Palestinians, and (riskiing understatement) created a festering emnity throughout the Arab/Muslim world. Since Israel’sinception two factors continue to fan the flame of hatred — America’s one-sided diplomacy and Israel’s inability to make amends with the Palestinians and friends of its neighbors.
    Sometimes our worst enemy is us. Too often America speaks with forked tongue when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. We say we are addressing the situation even-handedly, but we do Israel’s bidding. Whether we do so because we judge Israel to always be in the right, or we’re doing the Israeli lobby’s bidding, it’s the way it is.
    Most people think Israel will do America’s bidding. But as important as our support tp themis, they do not. A good example is the Israeli settlements. If any issue is going to assure conflict and hinder any peace agreement, it’s those settlements. And, we cannot get Israel to cease building them. An even better example might be our turn-about vote for Palestinian statehood in the U.N. For years we promoted the idea of statehood for Palestine, but when it came to put up or shut up, we did the latter. It’s something of an reverse lesson in how to win friends and influence people.
    The conflict between the two peoples has too often become violent, and nothing stirs passions more than violence. And, nothing takes longer to forget . . . if ever. So, when you factor the violent past, Israeli intransigence and the fact that Israel has made very few friends, what are the chances of attaining a peace?
    Are we realistic thinking this is a soluable international problem? One thing is certain — we have proved to be Israel’s best friend . . . for better and worse.

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