Print options

August 07, 2014

Will Gaza Crisis Force Israelis, Palestinians Back to Lasting Peace Talks?

by Mohamed Elshinnawi

As Gaza truce talks unfold in Cairo, the Obama administration again is pushing for a broader approach to the Palestinian-Israeli stalemate.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israelis and Palestinians to take advantage of the Egyptian-sponsored Gaza truce and adopt a far-reaching goal that would provide security for Israel and a better life and greater freedoms for the Palestinians.
 
 "I believe that the situation now that has evolved will concentrate people's minds on the need to get back to the negotiations and try and resolve the issues of the two states," Kerry said in an interview Thursday with the BBC.
 
Israel and the Palestinians have sent delegations to Cairo to directly negotiate the possibility of a long-term truce following a four-week war in Gaza that claimed more than 1,900 lives on both sides.

Peacemaking plan

Ori Nir, a spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now, said that the U.S. should lead the way toward credible peacemaking to bring the Palestinian Authority back into final-status negotiations with Israel.
 
"Having signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas earlier this year, the PLO is well-positioned to negotiate on behalf of all the Palestinians, to make hard decisions around the negotiating table, and to deliver when time comes to implement a peace agreement," said Nir.
 
Nir said that while the conflict inflicted a heavy human toll, Palestinians are seeing, once again, that violence will not defeat Israel and cannot improve the quality of their lives or deliver a peace agreement.
 
On the other hand, Nir said, "Israelis have seen, once again, that military power cannot bring about the capitulation of the Palestinian people or force them to abandon their aspirations for freedom and self-determination in a state of their own."
 
Nir said he believes that leaders on both sides find the massive civilian death toll and extensive destruction of Gaza unsettling and feel pressure to think differently and move from the mode of conflict to one of solution.
 
"I think the U.S. has now an opportunity to apply pressure and may be able to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept some security arrangements that could give life to the two-state solution," Nir added.

Cross purposes
 
In the past, former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the Palestinians "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
 
According to former U.S. envoy to the Middle East, Martin Indyk, the current leadership in Israel, though, also has been willing to miss the boat.
 
"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already articulated a position that Israel will have to keep its defense forces and security services in the West Bank for a long time, which makes an end to the occupation questionable," he said.
 
Indyk said that position make a two-state solution less likely.
 
However, he said he sees a glimmer of hope if the U.S. supports the reconciliation deal between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
 
"The agreement allows the PA to take control of Gaza and there would be one government, one law, and one gun that can be only with the PA, which could convince Israel to fully open Gaza passages in return for disarmament," Indyk told a panel at the Brookings Institution.

Key hurdles

But Khaled Elgendy, a Brookings fellow, said he doubts the U.S. would support the agreement.
 
"Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in convincing the American and especially Israeli leaders of the need to overcome their resistance to Hamas' involvement in Palestinian politics," said Elgendy.

"Both countries should recognize that the status quo of divided leadership has only made violent conflict more likely and more frequent, at the same time, they will need to get serious about ending the Israeli occupation once and for all," he added.
 
Elgendy believes the U.S. has lost much of its credibility as a peace broker and needs to adopt mechanisms to prevent future conflicts.
 
Matthew Duss, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, is more skeptical about prospects of peace after the Gaza war.
 
"There is very little that can be done with the current Israeli government that believes in continued occupation of the West Bank, as long as the Obama Administration is not willing to take up the political fight and use its leverage to adopt the terms of reference articulated in Obama's address in May 2011, as 1967 borders with agreed upon swapping of territories," he said.