Israeli-Palestinian Non-Existing Negotiations

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process looks to have entered the phase in which all participants gladly remember it, without any hope that it could be revitalized. This process, after the taking power by the new American administration of the president Trump was completely redefined and placed on new foundations stuck in a sphere of the unrealistic expectations and bad estimations.

The search for a peaceful solution of the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict has started to take shape already during the pre-election campaign of the presidential candidate Trump. Regardless of whether it was the result of  genuine foreign-policy estimation and the later unrealized expectations or just a way of getting the needed support ofthe domestic arena, it was not difficult to understand that the victory of Trump will unavoidably bring profound changes in the performance and reach of the American mediation.

The new American administration managed in a few moves to formulate the basics of its involvement in the Middle East with the consultation of the friendly Arab regimes. In a very short period of time they created the impression that things will begin to change quickly when the question of the future status of Jerusalem is taken off the negotiation table. Additionally, the resolution of the problem through formation of the two states next to each other (Israeli and Palestinian) would become only one of the possible solutions, if the parties involved in the negotiation so agree. Moreover, the mediators have just decided to retreat from the position that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be the only viable political and security solution, which could stabilize the situation in the region.

From its side, the Government of the Prime Minister Netanyahu saw in this change of the American position many positive elements and decided to adjust its policy to the messages coming from Washington. However, there were some clear voices which were against the establishment of any kind of Palestinian state, who do not accept any negotiated discussion about the future status of Jerusalem and who claim that the Jewish people have historical right to continue expansion of the settlements in the West Bank.

On the contrary, Palestinian opinions could not be heard loudly, not because they were without enough power, but were relativized by the unclear position of the Saudi Arabia, understood by USA and Israel to be in their favor. Therefore, the Palestinian leadership was left with only one ace in their hand, which was to reject any contact with American mediators,bearing in mind that the peace negotiations about the future Middle East would be based exclusively on Israeli positions.

The new situation was not favored by the Americans, because it could not produce any negotiations and “spectacular” visits of Washington’s representatives to the region. The American frustration was obvious and one could only expect that president Trump`s advisers would come out with some kind of solution for the new crisis. From their position, the solution was not in the change of the USA-Israeli approach, but through economic assistance for the future development of Palestinian territories, in exchange for giving up of demands on which the Palestinian nation was built (Jerusalem, right of the return of the refugees, occupied territories).

Washington decided to turn to coercive measures.

Having in mind grave economic and financial distress of the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, the new political line coming from Washington was directed to punitive measures. This would deprive Palestinians from the help they were enjoying for years, through the UN organizations or directly. Hence, if the Palestinian leadership would decide to return to negotiations and accept the peace agreement which was not even publicized yet, help would start to arrive once again. However, the return to the negotiation table would mean to the Palestinians the acceptance of future political and security rearrangements of the Middle East based on the positions of the current Israeli Government.

It is extremely difficult to accept that current Washington tactics can achieve any kind of success. As some of the commentators would say, Americans were never too impartial in the earlier negotiation rounds in the Middle East, but it was always within the proportions which could be accepted by the Palestinians as reality. Now, the same Palestinians do not have the same option.

The current situation means that, in case that the Palestinians would return to the negotiations, it would be understood as withdrawal from the demands that the Eastern Jerusalem would become the capital city of the future Palestinian state. This is so unrealistic, that it is very hard to imagine that somebody can expect that the denying of financial help would force Palestinian side to give up their basic demand during years of the negotiations with the Israelis. One has to take into the consideration that in two instances the talks between two sides came very close to the agreement about some parts of Jerusalem to be given under Palestinian control (prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert), of course as a part of the comprehensive peace agreement.

What was obviously omitted in all American estimations is that the current Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abass could suffer a hard blow on internal ground, because of the state of (non-existent) Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Palestinian leader could lose support of its own public opinion in the West Bank, which could lead on the path of a new round of radicalization and the violence. If there would be any kind of negotiations and the two sides could have credible talks, they would have to have representatives with the authorization of the majority, capable to agree and to implement what was agreed. In this case there is only one side strong enough to do that.

This kind of development cannotbe in anybody’s favor, except for the organizations like Hamas, who was always against any serious negotiations and potential concessions.

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the authors’ point of view and do not bind the Center for International Studies, its Director or any other researcher.

Old Jerusalem Western Wall barbed wire / photo by Djampa / CC BY-SA 4.0

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Mirko Stefanovic

Reseacher at CEI-IUL. Associate Professor at Law School of University NOVA in Lisbon. A Lawyer by education, he served as State Secretary and General Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. Between 1992 and 2001 he was Ambassador of Yugoslavia in Israel and between 2011 and 2015 he was Ambassador of Serbia in Portugal.

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