Talking about the talks in the Middle East


 As the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, Jordan and Egypt meet in Washington, commentators back in the Middle East weigh in.

  • Ari Shavit of Haaretz argues that an interim peace deal is a much more realistic goal: 

It was proven that the Palestinians do not want to share the country peacefully. And yet, despite its resounding failures, the approach is still with us. It still guides U.S. policy and dominates international discourse. The approach requires a number of Middle Eastern leaders to act based on a fundamentally flawed plan. At this very moment the approach is convening a useless peace conference in Washington… 

We can understand Abbas. He is probably the last refugee to head the Palestinian national movement. For hundreds of years his family and mine lived in the same city: Safed. The possibility that a son of Safed would give up Safed is close to nil. The idea that a Palestinian refugee would give up the Palestinian refugees’ right of return is unfounded.

Abu Mazen is a positive individual who opposes terror, but he has no interest in ending the conflict or the ability to do so… The only way to prevent the collapse of the process that is opening in Washington today is to quickly replace the failed approach with a realistic political one. Perhaps a Palestinian state with temporary borders, perhaps a partial evacuation of settlements, perhaps some other creative solution. But one thing is clear: Only if Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas forge some sort of interim agreement soon will peace come closer and an avalanche be prevented.

  • Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, argues in the Jerusalem Post that the rise of one state in particular makes a peace deal more likely now than in the 17 years of failed negotiations in the past: Iran.

Why should these negotiations be different? Is there any reason for optimism? Indeed, there is. For the first time in history, most Arab leaders view a Middle Eastern state other than Israel – Iran – as their major enemy. The Israeli government under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is strong, stable and deeply committed to resolving the conflict based on two states for two peoples. In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is working to restore law, order and economic prosperity while similarly pledging to pursue the two-state solution. And President Barack Obama has placed achieving peace at the top of his foreign-policy agenda. Never before, perhaps, have conditions been so conducive.

  • Eitan Haber, a former bureau chief for Yitzhak Rabin, writes in Ynet that Netanyahu’s moment of truth is nigh:

Netanyahu will have to deliver results in the near future, and in fact undertake the unbelievable leap required of him: His decision on the issue of the construction freeze in the territories, even before the September 26 deadline, will be more than a hint regarding his intentions for the future. The Americans and Palestinians will view the freeze as a test case.

  • Writing in Lebanon’s Daily Star, Ghassan Rubeiz writes that it’s person-to-person interactions that will bring true peace:

Though the majority swims with the current, there is a significant minority on each side of the Mideast divide which challenges extremist views and works hard to promote understanding and a justice-based peace. There are people who endeavor to break through the barriers between the communities and engage in an open-minded exchange.

  • In an editorial, the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National calls on the United States to pressure Netanyahu to approach the negotiations in good faith:

One concern discussed since the talks were announced – that spoilers on either side would resort to violence – was realised before negotiations even began. Four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, were murdered near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on Tuesday, a crime for which Hamas claimed responsibility. That Hamas is actively trying to sabotage diplomatic efforts is despicable. But Mr Abbas, for his part, has denounced these attacks and the enemies of peace responsible for them. The same cannot be said for Mr Netanyahu and the radicals in his camp.

  • Former Mideast negotiator Daniel Levy, who worked for Ehud Barak, writes in The Huffington Post that to succeed, these peace talks need to overcome the Palestinian leadership’s lack of power and support, the lack of interest in Israel in ending the occupation in the West Bank, and the long history of peacemaking failures.

 If the Israeli yes is there, it is going to take a c-section to bring it out into the world, and the only available surgeon is President Barack Obama.

Recommended from JTA