Palestinian statehood bid adds urgency for Israeli-Palestinian peace
Quartet envoy Tony Blair held talks today to prod Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table amid concern about a looming UN vote on Palestinian statehood.
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"If American officials ... continue to think that they can normalize their relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds without allowing Palestinians to become free and independent, they are making a major mistake."Skip to next paragraph
The Quartet, torn by divisions about how to break the deadlock, is pushing Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to a framework for talks that would enable them to hammer out an agreement within a year and make "substantial progress" regarding security and borders within six months.
In the meantime, the Quartet proposal calls on Israelis and Palestinians to submit their own detailed proposals on those two negotiation topics.
Many observers say that even if Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu are incapable of reaching a deal because their positions are too far apart, promoting negotiations still helps prevent a slide toward violence.
But former diplomats caution that pushing toward talks prematurely will do more damage than good.
Gadi Batliansky, a former Israeli diplomat who supports a two-state solution, believes that if the US and its allies can’t get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on ground rules for talks, it should challenge the sides to be more specific about their end goals.
"When Netanyahu speaks about a Palestinian state, what does he mean? When Abbas says right of return, what does he mean," he says. "If it’s impossible for them to agree, at least they should know the positions. The leaders should be taken to a crossroads where they have to make a decision.’’
Handshake on the White House lawn: Not what's needed now
Rather than focusing on diplomacy, some believe that Palestinian aspirations are better served by efforts on the ground to prepare Palestinian institutions for independence.
Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East adviser to the most recent Bush administration, argues that Arab states, European countries, the US, and Israel would all be better served to support the Palestinian state-building drive spearheaded by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – which could help boost the Palestinian economy and give the PA more authority over West Bank security.
“In my opinion the situation isn’t ripe for a negotiation,” says Mr. Abrams, now at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "If your focus is on the great handshake on the White House lawn, your focus is not on the statebuilding project."
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