Another round of fruitless Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on June 26 to discuss ways to revive the all-but-dead Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
After discussing details of the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, Netanyahu told Kerry that he prefers a current Egyptian-led effort to revive negotiations, rather than the international approach being pushed by France.
In the current political season in the U.S., in Europe and 24/7 in Israel, one of the favorite issues raised by candidates trying to flaunt their “international” credentials is the so-called “Middle East peace process.”
It’s really a no-brainer politically, because the general assumption is that most people in Western democracies prefer peace to war, and believe (completely erroneously!) that the Israeli-Palestinian problem is the root cause of all regional conflicts.
Those who don’t understand the dynamics, naively believe that a “two-state” resolution is the magic bullet that will instantly stop all the conflicts. If only “they” could sit down and negotiate in good faith then everything else will work out …
However, after five wars, years of terrorist attacks, months of failed negotiations, numerous broken promises, repeated land concessions by Israel and plenty of blame to go around, there are two schools of thought on how to bring that about.
First some definitions: The political terms “left” and “right” used here are the Israeli definitions, and refer to ideological and political views on the best way to assure Israel’s security and long-term survival: “Right” is more conservative (hawkish), while “Left” is more liberal (dovish).
In both cases I’m talking about normative Israelis and Americans, who support Israel and the Zionist dream and understand the need for an eventual resolution to the conflict, but have different opinions as to how to make it happen. Note: I’m not talking about the extreme, sometimes violent fringes of both camps.
On the “right” — mainly secular and religious conservatives who feel that Israel should maintain a tough, noncompromising negotiating posture leading to perpetual Israeli sovereignty over most of the areas of Judea and Samaria, while establishing a less-than-fully sovereign Palestinian nation-state that includes the Gaza Strip, is demilitarized and formally recognizes the Jewish State of Israel.
On the “left” — secular and traditional liberals who prefer compromise-driven negotiations that would essentially return most of the West Bank to the PLO with Israel maintaining permanent security control over the Jordan Valley and other small areas crucial to Israel’s ongoing and evolving security needs. Israel will also maintain most of the established Israeli communities (settlements) that are within the four “Consensus Blocs,” in exchange for agreed land swaps of equal area. Here, too, the ultimate goal is a demilitarized Palestinian nation-state that recognizes Israel as the historical and current sovereign Jewish homeland.
Israelis tend to vacillate between the camps, with most not fully committed to either. Many will lean one way or the other at any given time, based on either perceived threats, like war or terrorism, on the one hand … or real movement toward peace on the other.
The government of the day has a major influence on national leaning. But since the government is elected by the voters, we have an interesting chicken-or-egg question … or do we?
The fact that in recent elections Olmert, Sharon and Netanyahu were able to cobble together right-of-center coalitions has less to do with general sentiments among Israeli voters, who are basically centrist, and more to do with the fact that the traditional leftist parties keep breaking up and reinventing themselves with no coherent or unified platform or legacy leadership.
On the other hand, the Likud party, with few changes, has anchored the right wing of Israeli politics since 1973.
Today, Netanyahu heads a solid coalition of Likud and like-minded coalition partners. Any proposals that Secretary of State Kerry, and/or the Egyptians, will come up with this week will be negotiated from Israel’s “right-of-center” philosophy regarding security and boundaries.
That fact, combined with the current Palestinian leadership vacuum and ongoing rejectionist statements, make me feel pretty safe in predicting that this will just be another round of fruitless negotiations.
Agree or disagree — that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email:
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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