BLOG 228 December 1, 2014
Negotiations affecting the Middle East are currently going on at several different levels. The recent conflict in Gaza has had repercussions at negotiating tables in Europe. While the European nations are Israel’s largest trading, they are increasingly siding with the PLO against what many view as Israel’s aggressive expansionist polices. This past week foreign ministers in the European Union condemned violence on both sides of the Gaza clash but particularly spoken against the land grab Israel made near Bethlehem as punishment for Hamas aggression in Gaza. Israel must face the fact that it is losing ground in Europe because of a shift in public opinion. Increasing numbers of Europeans are viewing the possibility of Palestinian statehood more favorably.
Some European foreign ministers believe that the Israeli parliament has members who are “messianic fanatics” and don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. Of course, such extreme right-wingers are not considered reliable. The European union is pressing for a settlement with Palestine and Netanyahu is dragging his feet. Israel must recognize that delaying a settlement will cost them at the European bargaining table.
This past week Israel also fully responded to the two Palestinians who attacked and killed Jews worshipping in a synagogue. In addition to their deaths, their homes were completely wiped out. A wrecking crew tore down the apartment buildings where their families lived. No negotiations there. While an earlier army committee found this form of retaliation unproductive in halting attacks, that position has now been reversed. While it is clearly revenge, the Israeli government believes it needs to demonstrate it will not tolerate such attacks. The Jewish public is irate.
At another negotiating table in Vienna, the United States and allies were unable to finalize negotiations with Iran. While progress was proclaimed, it was not evident. Sanctions have pushed Iran to the wall, but their hatred of the United States has increased their resistance toverificatiaons. Iran was caught building a hidden enrichment facility called Fordo in a mountain near Qum. The Finnish former chief of the IAEA charged that the Iranians have five times as many uranium enrichment centrifuges as they admit –in other words, they have been lying.
One of the sticking points is that America wants inspectors to be able to roam around the country and inspect anywhere. The Revolutionary Guard bitterly rejects this idea. Moreover, the West wants to shut-down enrichment centrifuges and Iran fights this demand as well. The wrangling continues, but part of the problem for both sides is how an agreement would be viewed back home.
The Obama administration has been accused of becoming soft and Secretary of State John Kerry as too anxious to get a result. Iran is packed full of extremists and a Supreme leader who may be the least trustworthy of all. This week’s extension of the talks gives both sides time to go home and make sure the locals are on track with them.
The bottom line is that Iran wants the sanctions to stop and the West wants verification. Surely, that exchange can be worked out. Maybe.