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Palestinians bypass peace talks with Israel

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Applying for statehood recognition with 15 international treaties, Palestinians made good on their promise to bypass direct talks with Israel for an independent Palestinian state. Since U.S.-brokered peace talks began July 19, 2013, there’s been little progress on the April 29 deadline for final status agreement. Mideast experts believe Kerry bit off more than he could chew, requiring smaller steps toward a deal on a Palestinian state. At major dispute are the borders for a new Palestinian state, where 78-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists on East Jerusalem as the state’s capital. Palestinians currently occupy formerly Egypt’s Gaza Strip and Jordan’s West Bank, both territories seized by Israel during the 1967 “Six Day War.” How Palestinians call these their legal territories is anyone’s guess when they belonged to Egypt and Jordan.

Without Israeli spoils of the “Six Day War,” Palestinians would have no place for a new state, other than claiming the pre-1967 War borders that include the British mandate of Palestine given to Israel by Great Britain in 1948. Threatening an end run around Israel seeking international recognition for a new state prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to threaten unilateral reprisals. “These will only make a peace agreement more distant,” said Netanyahu, refusing to accept unilateral moves by Abbas to circumvent direct talks with Israel. “Any unilateral moves they take will be answered by unilateral moves at our end,” Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting. Abbas filed applications with international groups after Netanyahu refused to release the last group of Palestinians prisoners that included 54-year-old Marwan Barghouti, a possible replacement for Abbas.

Netanyahu’s conservative coalition led by his 56-year-old Moldovan-born Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman ‘s Yisrael Beiteinu party opposes releasing terrorists responsible for suicide bombing in Israel during the first and second Palestinians uprisings know as “intifadas.” Barghouti led the two infifadas that were responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths. Palestinians want Barghouti released from Israeli prison to lead the next uprising and eventually replace Abbas. With progress toward peace at stalled, Kerry said there were “limits” to U.S. involvement, where other pressing foreign policy challenges, including Ukraine, Syria, Iran and North Korea take priority. Since Sept. 11, former President George W. Bush changed U.S. negotiating strategy on Mideast Peace, refusing to deal with Palestinians as long as they practiced terrorism as a political tool.

U.S. conservatives back the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee that alligns U.S. and Israeli national security interests in fighting global terrorism. Since Sept. 11, Israel’s become a seamless U.S. ally where American armed services use Israeli navy and army bases like their own. Gone are the days when the U.S. pretended to be an impartial Mideast broker, pressuring Israel to make land-for-peace concessions, like former President Jimmy Carter did in 1978 with the Camp David Accords. U.S. national security interests in Israel no longer permit the same land-for-peace formula. Israel found out the hard way that land-for-peace didn’t bring peace, only more terrorism as seen in the Sinai Peninsula [returned to Egypt in 1979] and Gaza Strip [returned to Palestinians in 2005]. Both areas are terrorist havens, plotting more terrorist acts in Israel, Egypt, Syria and other countries.

U.S. negotiating strategy was built off the obsolete U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 that offered Israel peace in exchange for returning to the pre-1967 War borders, no longer possible in the age of global terrorism. Since Israel has already given back the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, the only territory left is the West Bank and Golan Heights. Because of Syria’s ongoing civil war, Israel can’t give back the Jordan Valley or Golan Heights. Abbas insists on East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Because of terrorism problems close to Israel, giving Palestinians East Jerusalem would compromise Israeli national security. Abbas and Palestinian leadership must accept the realities of negotiating for a state on Israeli spoils of the 1967 War. “Israel always implements unilateral steps,” said Palestinian official Abed Rabbo, blaming Israel for the current impasse.

Palestinian officials haven’t come to grips with the reality that they can’t dictate terms to Israel of a new independent state. Seeking recognition from various international groups doesn’t change the facts on the ground that they need to work out the details of a new state with Israel—or not. Palestinian and other Arab officials know that the path of armed conflict pushes the dream of a Palestinian state out of reach. Only by direct talks with Israel can Palestinians realize a new state. “We need bilateral meetings between us, including between the prime minister and Abu Mazen [Abbas],” said 55-year-old former Israeli Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni. Half the Palestinian population living in Hamas’Gaza Strip is still officially at war with Israel. With Abbas rejecting Netanyahu’s request to recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland, Palestinians remain a long way from a state.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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