The good readers of my Middle East Blogs will remember my skepticism about whether the current negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians will go anywhere. The fundamental reason is the Palestinians resolutely refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Arafat’s killing of a possible treaty that ended up starting the second Intifada was based this on fact. Time has not changed the Palestinian position. Secondly, Israel will not negotiate their security. These two facts must change for any progress to be made. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong but –
Almost nothing has appeared in the media to tell the world where the negotiations are going. The minuscule leaks have not been positive. The outsiders must struggle to get any sense of what is happening.
Let’s take another look at other dimensions that make an agreement difficult to achieve. One issue is that many Arabs have decided that no agreement is coming and have thrown in the towel by joining the Israeli state. They have recognized that attempts at settlement of old Palestinian property claims after the Arabs started the 1948 war aren’t going to happen. They have concluded a better life is possible only by starting where they are now and going forward.
Here’s another problem. The issue of the Jordan Valley farming area that borders Jordan and runs down to Jericho is seen by the local 60,000 Palestinians as the bread basket of their future country. The 8,600 acres of farm land is held at the mercy of the Israeli control of water that allows Arabs running water once every three days. The Palestinians must store every drop in bottles and cisterns. They fear the Israeli Likud Party’s position that maintains Israel should annex the land permanently.
The government of Benjamin Netanyahu believes the strip is vital to Israel’s security. If left without military oversight, the strip would be a natural corridor for the shipment of missiles and weapons into the hands of Israel’s enemies. Israeli’s also point to the mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority which the Arab residents of the area often complain about. The P.A. is known for being dysfunctional and in many cases corrupt and open to bribery.
Israeli settlers have now moved into the area and figured out how to make date palms a financially success crop. Some young Israelis have moved back because of cheap housing and community living. They are certainly opposed to the government negotiating their settlements.
How can these diametrically opposed positions be reconciled? At this point, the Israeli’s have the upper hand because of their military strength. However, the Palestinians are fiercely resistant. The end result is a gigantic elephant sitting in the middle of the negotiating room.
Just another reason for why progress has not appeared on the horizon.