Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Israeli-Palestinian talks are doomed to failure

Nothing constructive is likely to emerge from the latest talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because both leaders are too weak and the two sides are too far apart. Netanyahu cannot maintain his majority in Israel's parliament without the support of conservative settler parties that oppose further territorial concessions, and Abbas does not even have authority over all the territory he expects to make part of the Palestininan-dominated new country to emerge from a comprehensive peace agreement. The talks, which would not have even been scheduled without diplomatic pressure from the United States, have started just in time to resolve the still widely misunderstood issue of Israeli settlements when Israel's freeze on such construction expires Sept. 26, according to the Reuters international news service. The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority considers a freeze extension to be a necessary condition of its continued participation in the talks; Israel insists on continuing to build housing for its population, and obviously considers such construction to be its prerogative as a conquering power. But these people have been over this same issue for decades. It should be obvious to everyone involved that somebody is going to have to blink first. But whom? It doesn't help, of course, that both sides think they have already blinked numerous times with questionable results. Israel has maintained its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip for more than 40 years, and the Palestinians -- people who did not even exist as a people until they were disowned by their Arab brethren after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- have a functioning government and observer status at the United Nations. Complicating matters is the breakaway Hamas government in Gaza, which broke off from the West Bank government in 2007 to protest the PA's moves toward settlement with Israel. In the midst of the pessimism is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said recently that her view is that the issues could be settled within one year. Good luck with that.

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