WASHINGTON (Jan. 8)
Now that the Palestinians have scored a major point by getting the United States to join the U.N. Security Council’s tough condemnation of Israel, they may be ready to enter into substantive talks with the Israelis.
It is therefore likely that the delayed third round of bilateral talks between Israel and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, now set to begin next Monday, will move from the corridors of the State Department to the negotiating room.
The talks, which were to have resumed Tuesday, were delayed when the Palestinians, along with Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, refused to come to Washington, to protest Israel’s planned deportation of 12 Palestinians.
But with the United States joining Monday evening in a unanimous Security Council condemnation of Israel, all the Arab participants announced their readiness to resume the talks here next week.
“The Palestinians were playing brinkmanship to see if the United States would weigh in on their side,” said Adam Garfinkle, coordinator of the political studies program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
He said that Washington’s move may lead the Palestinians to believe that the United States will support their views in the actual negotiations.
Robert Satloff, deputy executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank here, believes a formula will be found before this round ends, at the end of the month, to allow real negotiations involving Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan.
ISRAEL AND LEBANON ‘GOT ALONG’
One reason is that the Palestinians and Jordan have to play “catch up” with Syria and Lebanon, which began substantive talks with Israel during last month’s round in Washington, Satloff said.
“Israel and Lebanon got along famously,” largely because Israel asserted at the outset that it has no designs on Lebanese territory or water, Satloff said.
While talks between Syria and Israel began showing strains before they left Washington on Dec. 18, the Syrians did show a “grudging acceptance” that security was a component of Security Council Resolution 242. And Israel did the same on the question of territory, Satloff said.
But Israel’s talks with the Palestinians and Jordan broke down over the Palestinians’ insistence that they negotiate separately with Israel, rather than as part of a joint delegation with Jordan.
Hanan Ashrawi, spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation, said Wednesday, as she departed Jordan for the United States, that the heads of the three delegations would meet again, followed by bilateral talks.
This could mean that the Palestinians accept the Israeli proposal for a formal session in which Israel would meet with the joint delegation, followed by separate talks involving an Israeli-Palestinian working group and an Israeli-Jordanian one.
The Palestinian group would include at least one Jordanian, and the Jordanian team would include at least one Palestinian.
NO ‘HEAVY BARGAINING’ YET
The Palestinian insistence on negotiating separately is seen as a means of establishing their identity as a separate people, while Israel has sought to maintain that the Palestinians have no national future except within the context of Jordan.
But now, “there is an inclination on all sides to get into the room,” said Satloff. He predicted that once real talks begin, Israel and the Palestinians will exchange their outlines for a self-governing autonomy for the Palestinians, but there will “not be any heavy bargaining yet.”
But Garfinkle believes that progress is more likely to be made in Israel and the administered territories, rather than at the Washington talks. He said there is already talk about self-government on such issues as health care.
“If the Israel-Palestinian front moves forward, the Jordanians will move right behind it,” Garfinkle said. He said the Jordanians will move as far as the Palestinians, but will not be out front.
Garfinkle believes progress can be made between Lebanon and Israel depending on “how long a leash” Syria allows Lebanon. The Syrian army controls much of Lebanese territory.
Syria also is a question mark in the overall negotiations, Garfinkle cautioned. “If the Syrians are worried about progress being made too fast, they can stop the Lebanese, but not the Palestinians and Jordan, he said.
The Syrians might then resort to inter-Arab terrorism as they have done before, he warned.