Daniel Levy on Relaunching (or not) Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Daniel Levy. the original key player (on behalf of Yossi Beilin) on the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative (a “civil society” effort to outline a peace agreement), is now in Washington D.C. (a senior fellow at the New America and Century Foundations), and he has recently published a new article (posted originally on Haaretz here and also on his own blog here, in which he argued that:

“If history repeats itself, Netanyahu could drag out talks indefinitely. Once negotiating, there is ample opportunity to create diversions, distractions and provocations … The PLO-Fatah leadership, so far at least, has cast itself in the role of skeptical party pooper. Its members know the consequences of another meaningless negotiation process for their national – not to mention party-political – cause. Many outsiders have been surprised, and some impressed, by the determination displayed over the last several months by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in refusing unconditionally to resume talks. Yet that same leadership has not offered an alternative strategy to replace negotiations, nor has it reunified the Palestinian national movement. The PLO-Fatah leaders are viewed by all sides
as the weakest link, hence the full-court press currently being applied to them. Should they succumb, they will no doubt have to justify such a move by clinging to whatever political fig leaf they are offered, but that will not shield them from what are likely to be harsh domestic political consequences … The main wild card in this equation is the
Obama administration. Year One combined early engagement and a strong declarative commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace with a frustrating lack of new thinking or political daring from the George Mitchell team, while the president was not personally involved and did not take ownership of the issue. The United States may be satisfied with a convenient and showy re-launch of negotiations, followed by the plodding predictability of process over substance. President Obama may, however, take seriously his own admonition that this issue matters to American strategic interests. That would translate into U.S. leadership in shaping a breakthrough, preferably with EU and Quartet support, creating real choices and deploying new incentives and disincentives with the parties, notably Israel. Ultimately, for all the noise and speculation regarding their resumption, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are likely to prove rather inconsequential. Success or failure in achieving de-occupation and two states will depend primarily on the conversation between Obama and Netanyahu, their political calculations, priorities and persistence”.

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