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Debate: The Palestinians should not withdraw from negotiations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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News of the resumption of the Palestinian–Israeli peace talks was not received with great interest by ordinary Palestinians. On the contrary, most popular and political circles took the news casually and considered it to be a Palestinian climb-down over issues that had previously been viewed as red-lines, most prominently: “No negotiations under the cloud of settlements”.

In reality, the resumption of Palestinian–Israeli peace talks was announced under regional and international pressure on both sides.

Observers of the Palestinian cause are well aware that the previous talks, which started from 1994, have achieved many things in relation to a final resolution, and that the requirements of both sides have become clear to both the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the European Union and to the United States. The course of the talks requires a political decision by both parties—the Palestinian and the Israeli.

Negotiations stopped because of the continuation of settlement activity, the appropriation of Palestinian lands and division of Palestinian territory, and Israeli refusal to identify the legal references for those negotiations, and thereby identify the borders of the Israeli state.

Benjamin Netanyahu becoming prime minister practically killed the peace process as a whole. It was akin to the start of a new phase, in order to impose realities on the ground with no concern for the Palestinian–Israeli agreement of 1993, and what had been achieved previously through negotiations.

The policy of halting the negotiations did not stop settlement activity whatsoever. In fact, this policy only served to increase Israeli settlement building, which further placed the negotiation and the peace process in danger amid regional and international facts and unprecedented changes in the Arab world, namely the Arab Spring.

EU countries have begun to look at the halting of talks as a serious danger which threatens the security of the region and the world. American national interests require peaceful reconciliation on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and in a manner that guarantees American interests in the Middle East. This, specifically, is the reason behind the American and EU moves to try to revive the Palestinian–Israeli talks and reach a safe resolution.

Needless to say, the current Israeli administration—a coalition government comprising Likud, Israel Baytuna, and Shas—views settlement activity as the basis for the current Israeli project and does not believe in a peace process. Under this coalition, the negotiation process cannot progress, and so if matters were left to the desires of Tel Aviv, the current negotiation process will certainly fail.

Palestinians, for their part, and despite the abject failure of the previous negotiation process, are well aware that responding to the will of the international community—particularly the US and EU—and returning to negotiations is the better options.

Palestinians have agreed to restart the negotiations, after openly announcing that June 4, 1967, would be the borders of the Palestinian state. Therefore any settlements built on Palestinian territory after this date are illegal and completely rejected. The Palestinian side also insisted on the current negotiations not having an open ended time frame, being limited to nine months.

It is noticeable that since the start of the talks, the EU and the US have dealt with this seriously, and their stances have been much clearer. This has raised hopes that there will be American–European pressure on Israel, and that America in particular will be able to put pressure on Israel–if it desires so.

There are American national interests that require it to exercise pressure on Israel, amid currents realities and developments in the region. Without such pressure, negotiations will not progress.

Official Israeli circles have realized the danger of the failure of negotiations, while also recognizing the danger of their success. In either case, the government will face threats and failure. Therefore, Tel Aviv is working hard and using every possible means to destroy the negotiations in the middle of their course.

The counterpoint to this piece can be read here.

Samih Shabib

Samih Shabib

Samih Shabib is the editor-in-chief of the Palestinian Affairs periodical.

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