Archive for July 30th, 2010

Aaron Miller, long-time State Department official, warns President Obama against pushing so hard for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Lara Friedman, of Americans for Peace Now, explores the tangled web that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will

PA President Mahmoud Abbas

need to walk now that even the Arab League has endorsed direct talks.

The sum of both articles, though, leaves one wondering why Barack Obama is pushing so hard for direct talks.

It’s clear enough why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants direct talks. Israel has done nothing to advance the proximity talks and faced no consequences for it. In direct talks, that will be even truer; holding the talks will satisfy much of the world, and Israel will be able to prolong them indefinitely.

But what exactly does Obama expect to come from direct talks at this stage? Netanyahu is shouting to all that will listen that he can’t even extend the joke of a settlement moratorium or his government will fall (it won’t). So how can we believe he can possibly make the concessions necessary for peace?

That aside, let’s say Abbas and Netanyahu do come to an agreement that satisfies both sides. What happens with Gaza and Hamas? Part of any agreement that the Palestinians can agree to is the affirmation of the principle that the West Bank and Gaza are a single territorial unit.

If such an agreement, then, is not possible, what’s the big rush for direct talks?

It does seem that this is another symptom of the tragic lack of strategy that has dogged Obama’s Mideast efforts from day one. The President has kept this issue on the front burner, and I remain convinced of his good intentions.

But we all know what is said about the road to hell. (more…)

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I recently wrote about the right-wing plans being floated for a one-state solution. In truth, of course, the idea really encompassed two states, with Israel encompassing what is now that state and also including the West Bank, and Gaza being a Palestinian state.

Avigdor Lieberman

Now, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is advancing the idea from the other direction. Lieberman wants Israel to finish disengaging from Gaza, renouncing all responsibility for the Strip and allowing it its freedom while cutting it off from Israel completely.

Lieberman’s plan has not met with approving ears by the international community, nor by the Palestinians, and the Netanyahu government has thus far ignored it. But it seems very likely that it, in some form, will, at some future point, connect with the notion of annexing the West Bank and become the new right-wing alternative to the traditional two-state solution.

Lieberman’s notion and the annexationist stance should not be taken lightly. True, the ideas have little support outside of far-right circles at this point; but they have the kind of appeal that is likely to spread to the center-right and center of Israeli politics. It has the potential, in the long term, to seduce many who today are in the Kadima or Labor parties.

Lieberman’s plan, not surprisingly, has met with sharp denunciations from both Fatah and Hamas. Still, if the plan were ever realized, Hamas would certainly take the opportunity to further consolidate their rule in Gaza and begin to develop the Strip again. Indeed, such a plan would end up benefiting Hamas more than any other party. (more…)

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