The New Republic writes here about the back channel for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that began in 2010, reporting that Israeli and Palestinian representatives came to agreements on central issues like borders, only to have Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pull the rug out from under them.
The article is worth reading, even if the claim of exclusivity is a bit overstated–many of us knew about the “secret” talks. What’s interesting is to note why Abbas pulled the plug–what he could not accept under any conditions: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, even if the formula guarantees he rights of all its citizens (both are unnecessary, but that’s another issue), a formula for solving the Palestinian refugee issue, and more. He also said a document that did not refer to Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state would be “political suicide.” No doubt true–but he turned down an Israeli offer that amounted to recognition of that, too, in 2008, the one that the AP banned me from writing about.
What we learn from this, once again, is that further negotiations are pointless. If Abbas cannot agree to any compromises from the traditional maximalist Palestinian positions, then there’s no point in trying. Abbas is the one who would not accept Israel’s 2008 offer of a Palestinian state in the equivalent of all of the West Bank, plus Gaza, a corridor between them, and the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem just as Yasser Arafat turned down a similar offer in 2000.
The New Republic article states that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to consider borders based on the 1967 lines that mark the West Bank, with territorial exchanges–the same concept Israel offered twice before. But when Abbas rejected all the formulas, it says, Secretary of State John Kerry’s reaction was to press Netanyahu for further concessions.
So is it any wonder that Israel does not see Kerry as a proper negotiator, or the US as an honest broker?
And in a larger sense–isn’t it even more clear now that some other way of solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs to be found? Here’s mine, an imposed solution, based on the actual interests of both sides. I don’t have any illusions that this would be peace, but with two states and recognized borders, perhaps peaceful relations could develop after a time. Or not. For Israel, it would be worthwhile just for the recognized borders and the internationally recognized right to defend itself if attacked by another nation.