|Photo by: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler|
EU backing informal Israeli-Palestinian talks
By HERB KEINON
Amid stall in formal peace negotiations, groups look at final-status “core issues” to improve the atmosphere between the two sides.
With Israeli-Palestinian negotiations nonexistent for most of the last four
years, informal talks between academics, public figures and former military and
civil officials from both sides are once again currently taking place, often
backed by the European Union.
When there are no formal negotiations to
speak of, informal talks tend to flourish, said one participant in the informal
dialogues collectively known as Track II diplomacy.
officials involved in the dialogues, which are being held discreetly, a number
of different groups are looking at so-called final-status “core issues” – such as
Jerusalem and security – to formulate recommendations of incremental steps that
could be implemented to improve the atmosphere between the two sides.
officials said there has been a lowering of the bar in the discussions from the
late ’80s and early ’90s, when the Track II, or back channel, talks led to the
Oslo Accords. Now, the officials said, there is much less talk about sweeping,
comprehensive agreements, and more about small steps that could – if implemented
– help rebuild trust between the two sides.
One of the officials involved
said that if in the past the underlying principle of Israeli- Palestinian
negotiations was that nothing was agreed upon until everything was agreed, now a
different philosophy is emerging in some of these dialogues – that what is
agreed upon should be implemented right away to rebuild confidence and show the
skeptical publics on both sides that progress is achievable.
government is not behind these initiatives, the official said it is aware of at
least some of the dialogues and kept abreast of the discussions. The official
said that the initiatives can be beneficial to the government down the line
because if and when talks are restarted, some of the ideas that have been
fleshed out in the informal meetings could be ready to be implemented
immediately on the ground.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, appointed by
then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to lead negotiations with the Palestinians
following the 2007 Annapolis meeting, is taking part in one of these dialogues:
an ongoing EU-funded project dealing with the way a two-state solution would
impact regional security and the regional balance of power.
working group is part of a trilateral (Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian)
research project led and managed by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic
Dialogue at Netanya Academic College, in partnership with Palestinian and
Jordanian partners organizations, under the auspices of the EU’s “Partnership
for Peace” Program.
The overall goal of the project is to present the
regional implications of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
who said that neither the Palestinian nor Jordanian participants wanted their
names revealed at this time, met them in Jordan and is working with them on a
regular basis on the project via the Internet. The idea, he explained, was to
posit that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement had already been reached and that a
Palestinian state was already a reality, and to then look at various models of
“Our premise is that we already have an agreement,
so the question is what kind of regional cooperation can we talk about,” Dekel
said, admitting that the initial premise – about an agreement – is a giant
Nevertheless, he said, the exercise is worthwhile because by
positing a final structure, or how cooperation could look years down the line,
policy makers may be better able to figure out the tactics needed to get there.