About two weeks ago July 30, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni (Israeli Justice Minister) and Saeb Erekat (lead Palestinian negotiator) in the Oval Office to start discussions about the two-state solution.
Over the next nine months the Palestinian and Israeli representatives will meet to reach a “final status” agreement, trying to end one of the longest conflicts in the history of Middle East. Like in the previous attempts to solve this dispute, US will play a “facilitator role.” For that they have appointed former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, as a special envoy to the talks. Though in my opinion appointing the same person who was responsible in finding a solution in the flunked Camp David is not a wisest thing, US still keeps its faith in him.
During his public appearance, Secretary of State Mr John Kerry promised economical gains for the Palestinians if the final peaceful solution is reached and harmful attacks on Israel’s legitimacy ended. Saying that “There will be new jobs, new homes and new industries for the Palestinians.” Desirable outcome to wish for, but hard to believe when it lacks the explanation how it will exactly be achieved. Therefore seeming just an empty promises.
He also claimed that during the negotiations all issues will be on the table for discussions. This will be a tricky situation because a lot of the subjects under the focus, such as the question of refugees, borders and settlements, have been through the years themes that have prevented finding a consensus. It will be interesting to see if they finally, first time in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, can find a solution that would please both sides.
For example the question of Jerusalem. Palestinians wish to get back the East Jerusalem, which has been occupied by Israelis since the 1967. The Old City contains the third holiest place in Islam, the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, from where Mohammed is said to have visited heaven on his winged steed Burak. Israel on the other had is unwilling to divide or give up Jerusalem, which is a religious and political centre for the Jews. It is also the capital of Israel and holiest city in the Judaism containing the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. I doubt that Israel or Palestine’s representative are willing to accept the other side’s demands and surrender in this demand.
Secondly, the issue of borders and Israeli settlements. Palestinians want the lands that were seized by Israel in 1967 – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to belong to a future Palestine. They also want all or most of the Israeli settlements to be abandoned. Palestinians appear to accept that some settlements will have to stay but they want to negotiate for a minimum number and a land swap for any that are left. Though Israel has withdrew from parts of the West Bank and Gaza, it would still like the borders to include the major Israeli settlements that have been built on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Another complication in here is that some right-wing members of the cabinet and Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party do not accept the idea of a two-state solution and new borders. Any departure from this would break up the coalition which forms the government.
Thirdly, the right to return. Palestinians demand the “right of return,” arguing that without it a great injustice would not be put right. Emphasizing that the people who lost their homes in the years of Nakba have the sole right of those lands and houses. They refuse to recognize the concept of Israel as a “Jewish state”, saying that this is discriminatory and ignores the Arab minority of Israel. Israel rejects the idea that Palestinian refugees from previous wars should be allowed any “right of return” to their former homes. They say that this is a device to destroy the state of Israel by demography in order to establish a unitary state of Palestine.
These three issues are only few of the core topics that will be discussed during these nine months, but one of the hardest one’s. Though the US representatives seem to be confident that this time will be a breakthrough in this seemingly everlasting conflict. Unfortunately through the years the peace meetings have often taken the same form: both sides meet, agree on working towards peace and the two-state solution but never the less, pass the time without any visible actions or progress. The Oslo Accord, Camp David, Roadmap For Peace, Annapolis Conference are some of the well known examples of the failed attempts.
Seems that all the meetings and conferences are more as a window dressing for the open public, just to show to the people that efforts have been made, than any real work towards it. Therefore, we will probably see more and more futile attempts until all sides finally recognize that open public has long lost the faith in all the meetings and instead of handshakes accompanied with a shiny smile, they want to see real results in solving the so called everlasting conflict.