08/21/2010, 00.00

Scepticism over "direct" dialogue between Israel and Palestine

Joshua Lapide
Although Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to meet next on Sept. 2, problems seem insurmountable settlements, Jerusalem, return of refugees. Hamas is sceptical, but also moderate Palestinian and Israeli figures. AsiaNews sources: Enough with palliative care. A large international initiative is needed.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday accepted the invitation offered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to travel to Washington on Sept. 2 to resume direct dialogue interrupted 20 months ago. They have a year to "resolve all final status issues".

The meeting in the U.S. capital will also attended by Egyptian President Mubarak, King Abdallah of Jordan and the representative of the Quartet (U.S., UN, EU, Russia), in the person of the politician Tony Blair.

In the words of Clinton, the dialogue should be "without preconditions", as Netanyahu has always preached in recent months. The Palestinians have always instead demanded a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in exchange for dialogue. And this was also the U.S. and Barack Obama’s position.

For many observers, including Israeli, the spread of settlements is such that its now impossible to establish a geographically unified Palestinian state. Palestinians have been left small islands, similar to the "Bantustans", the reserves in the old racist South Africa.

The statement of the Quartet dares to say something about the future Palestinian state, saying that dialogue will lead to an agreement "that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours". But it fails to mention the fate of Jewish settlements.

The main aim of the dialogue therefore seems unachievable given the remaining problems that appear insurmountable: the colonies, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of the future Palestine, the right of refugees to return. In addition, the two leaders, Netanyahu and Abbas are too weak to find a solution: Netanyahu is supported by a far right that will not accept any compromise on settlements and Jerusalem. Abbas is the head of a moderate formation, but one that is weak and cut off from the rest of the Palestinians. "These direct negotiations - Zakaria al Qaq of Qods University told the New York Times, - are the option of the crippled and the helpless". She added: "It is an act of self-deception that will lead nowhere."

Nevertheless, European and American politicians and heads of state have expressed joy over talks. Their joy however is contrasted by the scepticisms of Hamas, which has branded them as a U.S. attempt to "fool the Palestinian people”.

But this scepticism is also shared by liberal Israeli personalities such as Yossi Beilin, who called the proposal "a giant mistake by the U.S. administration." According to Beilin, the abyss between the two sides is too big and Netanyahu is not in a position to talk.

AsiaNews sources in Jerusalem confirm that "people are exhausted by the duration of this Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Many in the region have become defeatist, have lost hope that peace is possible. At most, they agree now only to attempts to manage the crisis rather than resolve it. There is indeed the mindset that the contrasts are too strong, that the contradictions are too entrenched and in the end, intractable, so all that can be achieved is supervision of the management of the crisis, in an attempt to contain it, to prevent it becoming open violent conflict, by continuously providing small new palliative concessions. Ultimately, however, this position - though understandable – will fail. Eventually, the containment of the crisis will merely feed those underlying fires that sooner or later are likely to come to the surface with losses on all sides”.

The U.S. effort is likely to be "another palliative concession”. Instead what is really needed is "a great international effort to bring about the total reconciliation of all countries in the region."
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See also
In 20 years of violence, 7398 Palestinians and 1483 Israelis killed
Clashes in East Jerusalem as talks stall between Netanyahu and Abbas
Uncertainty surrounds Mitchell’s mission
Jewish settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem hindering Israeli-Palestinian talks
UN and US slam new East Jerusalem settlements