Thu, July 25, 2013 | RubinReports | By Barry Rubin
Haaretz has reported an Israeli government announcement that negotiations will resume in Washington on Tuesday. The basis is supposed to be the 1967 lines — presumable with minor border modifications? — and recognition of Israel by the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a ‘”Jewish state.” The PA has repeatedly said it would never do so.
In fact, there has been no actual agreemet to renew talks, it’s an illusion.
It should be remembered that such talks were conducted between 1991 and 2000 without any actual progress toward a final status solution. They were then suspended by the PA for 13 years. In short, this is renewal of a process which, in its comprehensive goal, failed for 23 years. The last renewal achieved under U.S, pressure lasted about a week.
No doubt the renewal of talks will be greeted as a major achievement. It isn’t. If two parties are forced to talk they are unlikely to succeed. Other motives are present.
Israel is being pressured by an Obama Administration which it doesn’t trust, under highly threatening regional developments including Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood U.S. policy in Egypt, a revolutionary situation in Syria where the Obama Administration backs hostile forces (though the forces on the other side are equally hostile) , and a hostile Turkey also supported by the United States. The entire Obama Administration foreign policy team is not exactly friendly toward Israel.
This is not a moment for additional antagonism to be generated.
Israel is releasing prisoners whose terrorist crimes the Western mass media don’t report and to which the Western political leadership is indifferent. It is not, however, making other material or diplomatic concessions. It is unclear, however, whether in the formulation of the 1967 frontiers whether the U.S. government is proposing to keep its promise to Israel about retention of settlement blocs. That is a diplomatic ambiguity that will haunt the U.S. mediators since it will still be disputed either way.
It is extremely difficult to believe that the PA is giving up its refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish State. If it is, the PA will be renounced as a traitor by Hamas and even other Palestinian groups, including non-Fatah organizations. The demand for any Palestinians who want to live in Israel to “return” has also not been dropped.
Indeed, a few days ago the PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash gave a Friday sermon in the presence of “President” Mahmoud Abbas in which he justified any signed agreement with Israel, on the ultimate result of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, signed by Muhammad but only as a ten year truce with opponents. This was followed by another agreement at Khaybar with the Jews in the seventh century. This treaty made peace for a 10-year truce following which the Muslims attacked the Jews, killed all the men, and sold the women and children into slavery.
In a more limited objective, the PA will probably continually increase its demands, hoping they will either be granted by the Obama Administration or wreck the talks in a way that will blame Israel, assured that the Obama Administration will never blame the PA.
That doesn’t seem a good atmosphere for talks. Ignoring this, however, the Obama Administration should reap a good domestic political profit and praise.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, “Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. His latest book is “Israel: An Introduction,” also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including “The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict,” “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” and “The Truth About Syria.” His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.