Talks, talks, talks

Analysts, civic society leaders react to launch.

Clinton Mitchell 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Clinton Mitchell 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Sameh HabeebFounder and Chief Editor, Palestine Telegraph NewspaperI have experienced failure after failure after failure, so I expect another failure. We have two problems: first, the Israelis are not interested in peace, except according to their criteria, which means they still want to occupy part of the West Bank and pursue their settlement policy. As for the Palestinians, let’s be frank, Abbas is very weak and going to these talks under heavy pressure. He is not even universally accepted as the president anymore, so he has no mandate to be there, meaning even if there is a deal, he doesn’t represent the Palestinians.”
Avraham BurgFormer speaker of the Israeli parliament and former chairman of the Jewish AgencyWhenever people talk I’m happy but I do not really believe that there is a real willingness in the DNA of the Israeli prime minister and this government to pay the price for peace, which means territorial concessions. The only thing that has changed is that Netanyahu was persuaded that it’s impossible to continue with the situation as it is without the safety of a political process that he is engaged in. Previous prime ministers got a lot done while engaged in a peace process. Olmert, for example, went to war twice. But Netanyahu wanted to do a lot without a peace process, and these are the kind of acrobatics that you can’t get away with in international diplomacy. In other words, Netanyahu has been walking a tight rope without a safety net, and after falling a number of times, he realized that he can’t keep going without the safety net of a peace process.
RiyadPalestinian street cleanerWhat do the Americans care? They don’t live here with us. We have to use our common sense, Jews and Arabs... We are cousins, Isaac and Ishmael... Let us live as friends. God willing there will be peace between us and the Jews. God willing they will progress little by little. You can’t do this in one fell swoop. A man can only climb up stairs one step at a time. So slowly, slowly they’ll progress...
Gal HochsteinIsraeli social workerI live in Jerusalem and we feel the conflict everyday. I also work in east Jerusalem with Arab youth groups. If we want to solve this conflict I think we have to take very big decisions for our country, like (a decision on) the Palestinians who want to return to their homes in Jerusalem. We need to pay a lot of money to solve this issue... I don’t think the governments are really ready to do any significant step about it... I am pretty pessimistic.
Suha BarghoutiSteering Committee Member, Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ NetworkWe have been engaged in a peace process for 18 years, since 1992. All negotiations since then have led to nothing, and this too will lead to nothing, so I don’t see the difference this time and I don’t think it’s going to lead to anything except to give the Israelis more time. The Palestinians are even weaker than we used to be, because now we have this internal Palestinian conflict, and the weak side will always fold to pressure from the US or the international community because we can’t afford to say ‘no’. So the balance of power is totally uneven. The Palestinians are giving but gaining nothing from it.
Hillel Frisch
Professor in the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
There is a phrase in Arabic which means ‘In movement there is a blessing’. Moderate Arab states just want to see movement so that they can placate their streets, but they’re not sure that they or the Palestinian Authority really want substance beyond freezing the settlements. This is because the ‘Hamas swamp’ is still too big and it will take a few more years to fully dry it up. Any further progress in the peace talks would effectively end the security cooperation which takes place in which Israelis clean up this swamp by night through raids while the Palestinian Authority cleans it up during the day through civilian infrastructure. (Moderate Arab states) also want to see that Abbas is a true Arab leader, able to suppress his opposition and make sure that election results are more or less known ahead of time.
On the Israeli side, they absolutely don’t want any substance and there’s no doubt that from an Israeli point of view this is just movement meant to placate international opinion. The Palestinians are an issue for Netanyahu, but the real issue in terms of priority and timing is the Iranian threat. Whatever the Palestinians can do in the short term is nothing like the possibility of one or two atomic bombs.