carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

WEST BANK: Mitchell searching for 'common ground' to salvage negotiations

U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who arrived Tuesday on a Mideast trip to try to salvage the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, seemed determined to continue his efforts to bridge the fast-growing gap between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Mitchell held one round of separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the last couple of days. He will now hold a second round in the next couple of days with both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, looking for what he called “common ground between the parties” to salvage the month-old direct negotiations.

It is not yet clear whether he will succeed in bringing Abbas and Netanyahu together again at the same table, as was the case before the settlement freeze expired Sept. 26.

The Palestinians said they would not continue in the negotiations if the freeze were not extended for at least three more months to give the talks a chance to progress. But they said they would give their final answer after an Arab League committee meeting, originally scheduled for Oct. 4 but later postponed to Oct. 6, convenes in Cairo.

The delay in the Arab League committee meeting and Mitchell’s rounds between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the coming days created the feeling among some that the U.S. might have a chance to come up with some way to keep the negotiations alive. The American efforts are expected to get a boost from the European Union, whose foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, will throw the weight  of the EU behind the peace efforts.

Ashton -- whose EU, a partner in the Middle East quartet along with the U.S., Russia and the U.N., was deliberately kept away from the Washington summit that kick started the direct negotiation on Sept. 2 -- decided to change her program and visit the region for urgent meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas. She was heeding an appeal from her U.S. counterpart, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to help out. Ashton believes Netanyahu should extend the freeze to prevent the collapse of the negotiations.

Mitchell’s first round of talks in Ramallah were described as “serious and in-depth,” according to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

But the Palestinians would not yet talk about breakthroughs or anything close to a way out of the impasse, preferring to wait and see what Mitchell would bring with him when he returned to Ramallah on Friday after meeting with Israeli leaders.

Mitchell remained determined but preferred not to mention the controversial and sensitive issue of settlements in public, pinning possible collapse of the peace process on extremists rather than on Israel’s policies.

“We are determined to continue, and we are continuing our efforts to find common ground between the parties to enable the direct negotiations to continue in a manner that we hope will lead to an agreement,” Mitchell said after his meeting with Abbas. “We recognized and said at the outset that there would be difficulties, there would be ups and downs, and there will be many obstacles to the peace process, including some who would like to see the process fail and take action including the use of violence to prevent it from succeeding.”

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

Comments () | Archives (5)

The real problem here has always stemmed from mankind's curious inability to get ahead of the curve on this one.

Until we stop playing catch-up on events and learn how to circumvent them with the aid of a little forward planning, nothing of significance will ever be achieved, no matter how hard we try.

Just for once, let us attempt some lateral thinking on the subject; something that favours a more proactive approach rather than the reactive response that is so often the case.

Israelis and Palestinians are in disagreement over what exactly? The price of coffee? Life on Mars?
No, they are, primarily, in contention over the land of Israel/Palestine itself; who should it belong to? which side has the better claim? who is more likely to come out on top whenever final ownership can be determined? This Jewish settlement business is merely an extension of what is a longstanding territorial dispute. They both want the land in question and each has their own take on the subject.

So, let's focus on that fact - but in a lateral fashion.

First step in lateral thinking is to go into reverse, up-end the accepted view of the situation.

So, let's make it possible for land to be acquired in a more or less legitimate manner. Not by force nor threats of force nor claims of previous entitlement. Not even by evidence of divine largesse but, instead, by adopting as impartial a method as possible.

Do it in this manner and the problem, to a large extent, is eliminated. Either way, the matter reaches one of two preferred conclusions; a mutual stalemate accompanied by a permanent and, possibly, complete cessation of violence, thereby much improving the chances for any real settlement. Or a straightforward mathematical apportioning of the entire territory with no comeback possible from one side or the other. My bet would be on the first scenario.

Maybe it is time to rethink our methods. The ones we have at present do not appear sufficient for any purpose other than to delay the inevitable.
And we all know what that is; we've seen it happen before.

The best thing Mitchell, the US, the Quartet and the UN could do would be to mind their own business. While everyone is stirring the pot for their own national advantage and funding the kleptocrats - either "secular" or jihadi - there will be no peace. It is as empty headed to blame supposedly extremist Israelis (read Jews)for the lack of peace and another Arab/mohammedan dictatorship as to regard those Arabs who brand-named themselves "Palestinian" as a people seeking peace. They could have had a statelet years ago, but their priority is not self-determination, but its denial to Jews.

I think many questions would be answered if Palestinians and Israelis would look for an agreement to one state.

Settlements wouldn´t more be a problem, Gaza´s peoples would be free to travel across the County and Jerusalem would remain undivided.

The economy would be better for all parties.

It will take many time to adress the People this idea and waiting for reactions of both parties.

greetings, f.a.

Um, actually "peacelover" the primarily reason is because Israel fears a civil war between Jewish settler's and the government. Do you have any idea for close they were to civil unrest when the pulled out of Gaza? But if you want to see real extremists all you have to do is take a look at the Gaza leadership.

"...pinning possible collapse of the peace process on extremists rather than on Israel’s policies."

Um, NEWSFLASH: The Israeli government is almost entirely composed of "extremists", which is why they prefer to continue stealing Palestinian land over peace.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors