Monday, 5 August 2013

US-brokered Middle East peace talks

Whether there will be an agreed two states of Israel and Palestine is going to depend on how heavily the US government is prepared (behind the scenes) to use its financial muscle to support the solution. Given that the Democrat Party traditionally enjoys majority Jewish support in the US, the Obama administration would appear to have the best chance for ages to bring it about. However, Chris Davies MEP in his regular Notes is cautious:

The best news this week is that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to meet in Washington for preliminary discussions about a two-state solution. Certainly the chances of success cannot be considered good. A majority in the Knesset may now be against any sort of independent Palestinian state; too many Israelis have grown accustomed to managed occupation and seem prepared to accept gradual annexation of Palestinian land and to live as dominant partners in some kind of apartheid structure. Meanwhile, Palestinians are divided, with Hamas leaders refusing to accept an agreement on any terms and challenging the right of Mahmoud Abbas to speak on behalf of all. But despite the difficulties huge credit must go to US Secretary of State John Kerry, and behind him President Obama, for their persistence in bringing the two sides together.

Surely this really is the last chance of achieving a two-state solution? Israel's policy of settlement building and of changing the facts on the ground has already made it virtually impossible to conceive of a genuinely independent Palestinian state being created. Maybe it's time to start talking about the economic interdependence of the two peoples - and the need for something like the EU to be born in the Middle East. 

Although there have been protests by Israeli citizens about a falling standard of living, Israel still enjoys great financial support from both private and public sources in the West. Apart from Iran and Syria, whose concentration on assisting the militants in Palestine is as much an embarrassment as help, there is no similar support for the Palestinians. So there is no incentive for the Netanyahu government to make any concessions, unless the US and EU are prepared to wield a financial stick. As Chris Davies continues:

An influence upon the debate has been the decision by EU foreign ministers to start putting some substance behind their words. From January next year, whenever Israel reaches an agreement (about virtually anything) with the European Commission (and by implication with any EU member state) it will be required to sign an explicit declaration that no part will apply in any way to Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 line, including in East Jerusalem where the vast majority of settlement expansion has taken place.

 While Palestinians have praised the EU, Israeli politicians have reacted with fury (and horror). Some have claimed that the EU decision could halt all economic, scientific, academic and cultural co-operation. Maybe they have at last realised just how much they could be affected if their allies tire of Israel's refusal to end its occupation. Although some commentators have suggested that the timing of the EU move was 'unhelpful' to the peace process you can be absolutely sure that the USA had been fully consulted about it. Even Israel's strongest supporters within the EU have lost patience and in this instance I have no doubt that they were given tacit encouragement to play 'nasty cop' to John Kerry's nicer version.

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