Are The Middle East Talks A Futile Pursuit?

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry announced preliminary plans to hold peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Despite the fact there is no date set, nor any real indication a solution will result from the talks, even skeptics view them as a positive move.

First and foremost, many believe that some talks are better than no talks. There also could be other benefits, maintains The Christian Science Monitor, including the message that would be sent to the region’s inhabitants.

“Frustrated Palestinian youths chafing at continued occupation may be less likely to launch a third intifada, especially if talks are accompanied by pressure-reducing steps like an Israeli prisoner release, others suggest. The Palestinian Authority, they add, would be less likely to launch tension-provoking initiatives on the international stage, such as seeking International Criminal Court (ICC) action on Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

With Syria and Egypt in turmoil, some critics assert the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should not be the priority of senior diplomats.

“But as I’ve written before, I think Kerry is on a fool’s errand, and I think the collapse of these talks, which is almost inevitable, could have dangerous consequences. Remember what followed the collapse of the Camp David peace process in 2000: years of violence, including horrific bus-bombing campaigns,” writes Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News.

Goldberg goes on to say that to have faith in the peace process necessitates ignoring the reality that Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip and that neither side is ready to deal with the thorny issue of Jerusalem.

Other critics view the pursuit of talks in more political terms by asserting that John Kerry appears more interested in holding discussions than either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

“’Clearly, Kerry wants it more than Netanyahu or Abbas,’ said Elliott Abrams, who served as a deputy national security adviser under Republican U.S. President George W. Bush and was involved in Bush’s failed push for a peace agreement by the end of 2008.

‘I don’t think it’s a mystery why that would be. For both Netanyahu and  Abbas, these negotiations present enormous political problems and both of them  are going to be accused at various points of … giving away too much,’ he added.”

Talks Could Yield Smaller Concessions From Israelis, Palestinians
Some believe that negotiations do not have to be a winner-take-all equation and that agreement could be reached on smaller disputes.

“Moreover, failure to reach a comprehensive peace accord does not rule out reaching interim agreements on some of the conflict’s more resolvable points of contention, some experts say,” argues Howard LaFranchi.

Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution concurs that the symbolism of the peace talks could yield benefits. In countering the critics who assert the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the least of the region’s concerns now, Telhami argues that it remains “the prism of pain through which Arabs view Washington and much of the world — even more so since the region’s uprisings.”











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