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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Obama's hopeless 'settlement freeze'

I want to share with you a couple of good analyses I found of why the 'settlement freeze' extension will not bring peace and is completely hopeless.

First, Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post.
But even if the new freeze is implemented, virtually no analyst believes an agreement on borders is possible in 90 days.

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and now a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, said there is "not a hope whatsoever" that the two sides can agree on a border within 90 days if left to their own devices. He said that the only way to make real progress is for the Obama administration to offer its own formula for the border, thus forcing a "yes or no" moment for the Israeli government.

"Ninety days seems pretty short," said Nathan J. Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. The compromises will be very difficult, he said, and there is little trust or confidence between the two sides. "Negotiations don't have a self-sustaining momentum, no matter how determined George Mitchell is," he said, referring to President Obama's peace envoy.

Part of the problem is that Israel's main bargaining chip is land, and it would be required now to give up land without knowing precisely what it would get in return. Palestinians have been willing to consider swaps, getting land in exchange for giving up settlements on claimed Palestinian territory, but have insisted on 100 percent of the total square miles held before the 1967 Six-Day War.


"The question is whether Netanyahu and his coalition . . . are willing to sign an agreement that will effectively return Israel to the 1967 borders," Israeli political commentator Nahum Barnea wrote Monday in Israel's mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth. "Are they willing to do this even before the question of the right of return and the question of Jerusalem have been discussed? If so, we can tip our hats to them. They are brave people, who are not reluctant to change their opinion completely, people who have seen the light. Otherwise, they are risking a bitter quarrel with the U.S. administration. They are selling our birthright for a mess of pottage."

The "right of return" is the Palestinian's main trump card - giving up their right to return to homes in Israel. Deferring the issue of Jerusalem, which Palestinians also want to claim as their capital, until after the 90-day period is also problematic, analysts said. Striking a deal on borders without tackling Jerusalem would mean that Israeli building in areas now claimed by Palestinians, such as East Jerusalem, would continue to be a source of tension.
And here's a quote from the Christian Science Monitor (the link at the Daily Alert is incorrect).
Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff of the army, says a preliminary agreement on territorial concessions risks conceding Israel’s territorial “strategic depth” before reaching a full agreement. “It’s like having a negotiation, and saying, ‘First, give all your money, and then let’s talk about the other issues.”’
I've actually heard of negotiations like that. I would not want to be involved in them.

'Fierce moral urgency,' even if it were true (which it is most definitely not) does not ensure an agreement. Obama's 90-day 'settlement freeze' extension is a dangerous gambit that will not bring peace. He'd be better off announcing that he will not demand any more 'settlement freezes' from Israel, and that the 'Palestinians' can decide whether they will come to the table without preconditions. That would be a better solution than compounding his initial mistake out of the box.

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At 3:32 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

While I think you were right earlier this week, Carl - conditions have changed so much that Netanyahu can't even get the Administration to put into writing the terms on which he hoped to sell another revanant freeze extension. For now, it looks DOA because neither Obama nor the Palestinians will except a one-time extension.


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