Washington Needs Negotiation Gesture

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tel Aviv is reluctant, Gaza is opposed, but White House insists

Interview with Massoud Asadollahi
Analyst and Middle East Expert

The new round of so-called peace talks started between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in total silence and in the absence of reporters and media without any public comments by either side of those negotiations. Since the beginning of the negotiations, we have been witnessing unprecedented expansion of the Israeli settler units on the Palestinian lands. Although the Palestinian negotiators once threatened to leave the talks in protest to Israeli’s settlement construction, negotiations have not stopped. In the following interview with Dr. Massoud Asadollahi, an analyst and Middle East expert, we have discussed such issues as the existing differences between two major Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, over negotiations with Israel, and the reason behind the United States’ insistence on the continuation of these fruitless talks.

Q: The second round of compromise talks between Palestinian and Israelis has started at a time that the Israelis have announced they will go on with the construction of new settler units on the disputed Palestinian lands. Why under conditions when the two sides are engaged in totally fragile negotiations, Israel has taken such a provocative measure?

A: Basically, the new round of negotiations, which has been initiated because of the mediation and insistence of the United States between Palestinian and Israeli sides, is actually a result of domestic needs of the US administration, rather than being true negotiations. The reason is that as a result of new developments in the Middle East, the Obama administration’s foreign policy has come under increasing fire inside the United States and the US president [Barack Obama] has been accused of being unable to suitably and firmly deal with the crises that have been brewing in this sensitive region during the past two years. [He has been criticized for the mismanagement of Middle East crises] from the crisis in Syria to what is currently going on in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. In fact, we have been witnessing serial debacles in the US foreign policy during the past two years. The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan also needs no further explanation. Therefore, Obama is currently trying to break new grounds in his foreign policy in order to muffle his domestic critics, most of whom belong to the Republican camp.

Even now that negotiations have gotten under way, Israelis are basically not ready to give any concessions on important issues to the Palestinian side. This is especially true about continued construction of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank because the Israelis consider this not only a strategic issue, but also sacred. All political parties in Israel are unanimous that dismantling these settlements is not possible, and on the contrary, they should be further developed. In this way, they consider no room for negotiations over this issue. However, the two sides have resigned to sit at the negotiating table due to insistence of the United States. Therefore, we see that just before the negotiations started, the officials of the Israel began their new plan to further develop the Israeli settlements and even talked about the new structure of residential complexes. These measures were considered by most analysts as a premature coup de grâce to further negotiations.

Q: After Tel Aviv’s announcement about continued construction of the Israeli settlements, Palestinians have threatened to boycott the negotiations, but that threat was never put into action. Why the Palestinian side has withdrawn from its past positions during the new round of talks?

A: This is true. The Palestinian side could not go on with its threat because they are under tremendous pressure from the United States. There is no doubt that the ongoing negotiations will lead to no conclusive result. It has been Israel’s strategy not to say no to the White House any time it has been faced with pressure from the US administration during the past years. However, Tel Aviv, for its turn, has tried to drag out the negotiations. It has become habitual for the Israeli negotiators to find various excuses and make recourse to petty pretexts in order to prolong negotiations on any issue. They continue to do this until the tenure of the incumbent US president comes to an end and the turn comes for a new president at the White House with new policies.

Q: The beginning of the new round of talks was marked with the emergence of a serious divide between Palestinian groups, Fatah and Hamas, over negotiations with Israel. Can one have any hope that these talks may become fruitful in view of the internal rifts between Palestinian groups? What is the root cause of the existing differences between Hamas and Fatah?

A: Such differences over negotiations have been always there. This means that the Palestinian resistance groups have never accepted negotiation; neither during past talks between the two sides in [the Norwegian capital] Oslo, nor at the present time. As a result, the issue of negotiations and their futility has been a regular cause of serious differences between the Palestinian resistance groups on the one hand, and the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand.

Q: It seems that neither in the United States, nor in the region, anybody has any serious hope that the ongoing negotiations will finally bear fruit. So, why the Americans have reopened the old case of peace negotiations at a time that they are also grappling with the crisis in Egypt and are having a hard time in Syria?

A: I already said at the beginning of the interview that due to the failure of the US foreign policy in the face of regional crises, the US government has taken this measure because they think this is the one and only issue over which they may emerge somehow successful. Both [the US President Barack] Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry were aware from the very outset that there is no real hope for the success on this issue. So, why they insist so much? One reason is their dire need to appear successful, at least, on one issue in the region. Another reason, which has been pointed out by the American strategists since a long time ago, is that the United States will be facing a serious challenge from the rising power of China in coming years. As a result, they have been recommending the US administration to pay more attention to the threat posed by China instead of putting all its focus on issues related to the Middle East. Therefore, some analysts believe that the latest move by John Kerry and Obama is in line with this strategy as a result of which they want to achieve even a rickety agreement on the issue of Palestine. After that, they will have the ease of mind to shift their focus to China.

The United States was forced to withdraw its troops from Iraq; is having very hard times in Afghanistan where it is under mounting pressure; and has not been able to achieve much in Syria because it knows that the situation in that country is moving toward empowerment of terrorist forces and Al-Qaeda. Libya was actually a playground for the NATO, which took action to topple the government of [the former Libyan dictator Muammar] Gaddafi. Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, we saw how the US Ambassador to Libya [Christopher Stevens] was killed in a terrorist attack [in Benghazi] and the country has practically submerged in chaos. The new government in Tunisia is facing serious challenges. The situation in Egypt is very critical and may have a negative effect on other Arab countries. The operations of Al-Qaeda have greatly increased in Yemen. All these realities on the ground are proof to the failure of the United States foreign policy. Therefore, the White House is seeking to break new ground by emerging even superficially successful on the issue of Palestine.

Key Words: Peace Talks, Palestinians, Israelis, US Administration, Middle East Crises, Israeli Settlements, Fatah, Hamas, Asadollahi

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Massoud Asadollahi:

*Hariri Tribunal and Lebanon's Latest Developments:

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم