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Monday, August 30, 2010

Trying to predict what will happen in Washington

What's going to happen on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington? Will Netanyahu agree to extend the freeze? Will Abu Bluff walk out if he doesn't? Here's a story of a simulation that took place this week to see how the talks will go. The bottom line: Obama is the key.
The Jerusalem Post convened on Sunday a group of former top IDF officers currently affiliated with the Council for Security and Peace, an association of national security experts, to play the roles of key players in the peace process and examine what the chances are for success or failure.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, a former deputy head of the National Security Council, played the role of Obama; the council president, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Nati Sharoni, played Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; retired Col. Shaul Arieli, head of the peace administration (its mandate was to produce working papers on permanent-status issues and act as something of a database for the negotiators) under Ehud Barak during the Camp David talks in 2000, played the role of PA President Mahmoud Abbas; and Brig.- Gen. (res.) Gadi Zohar, former head of the IDF’s civil administration in the West Bank, played the Arab world, primarily Egypt and Jordan, whose leaders will be present at Wednesday’s summit.

The two main conclusions from the simulation were first, that the level of mistrust between Israel and the PA is deep and profound, serving as an obstacle in and of itself without even considering the domestic political challenges each side faces.

Second, the player with the most influence on the outcome of the talks is the United States, which will need to decide, sooner rather than later, how aggressive it wants to be in keeping the sides at the negotiating table and enforcing a peace treaty.

Each player framed his strategies realistically. Obama, according to Brom, is bringing the sides together in an effort to reach an agreement for two primary reasons: first, since in his world view the Israel- PA conflict has a “negative effect on overall stability in the Middle East, from Morocco to Afghanistan” and second as a way to increase the chance of a Democratic victory at the polls in November.

The obstacles to the success of the talks were presented to all of the sides: what Israel will decide regarding the pending expiration of the freeze on settlement construction; Hamas’s potential destabilizing role in Gaza; and Iran’s reaction to success, including the possibility that it will advance with its nuclear program and put Israel before a difficult decision – either attack Iran and knowingly torpedo the talks or continue the talks and allow Iran to go nuclear.

Obama will demand as early as their meeting on Wednesday, according to Brom, that Netanyahu extend the freeze on construction in the West Bank. [I believe he will make that demand on Wednesday. Possibly in front of everyone at dinner. CiJ].

Sharoni, a former head of the IDF Planning Branch, who was playing Israel, said that Netanyahu was likely to agree to a continuation of the freeze within the isolated settlements but to lift it within the settlement blocs, in places like Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion.

A continuation of the talks, Netanyahu will also likely argue, will enable him to make greater concessions and minimize domestic political risks that could affect his coalition.

The PA and Abbas – played by Arieli – said they would not accept any continuation of building, even within the settlement blocs or east Jerusalem.


Brom, playing Obama, stepped up to the task and did his best to convince Abbas to stay at the negotiation table, pointing out that the US’s original moratorium proposal was for Israel to freeze construction only in isolated settlements and not in the blocs. Netanyahu was the one who had rejected this idea, not wanting to seemingly make a distinction at the time between types of settlements.

In addition, Obama will be able to promise Abbas that he will firstly hold Netanyahu to a strict timetable for the talks – around a year – and will also, if the talks falter, be prepared to make his own recommendations and proposals to solve disagreements that will naturally be closer to the Palestinian position.

“We will promise real US involvement, including proposing ideas how to bridge gaps,” Obama will say.

Even with such aggressive US intervention in the talks, it is not clear that Abbas will be able to deliver, due to his weak political standing in the PA. Last week, for example, Abbas failed to convene the PLO executive committee and has weak support within his own Fatah party. As a result, part of Abbas’s strategy, as presented by Arieli, will be to show Netanyahu’s true face as the side unwilling to abide by international agreements and guidelines, and then call upon the UN Security Council to take up the Israel- Palestinian issue.
What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

For a summary on the issues at stake in the 'peace process,' and how the parties may try to resolve them, go here. Of course, they don't deal with the biggest issue: That the 'Palestinians' will not accept Israel as a Jewish state and are unlikely to sign an 'end of conflict' declaration or mean it if they do sign one.


At 7:04 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

When it comes to the Palestinians one can safely say they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Will Abu Bluff live up to that billing again in Washington on Wednesday?

Stay tuned.


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