Monday, September 6, 2010

Re-launched Talks: The PowerPoint

Why they started
  • Abbas: No other reason for power; Hamas makes war, Fatah makes peace, brings donors
  • Netanyahu: Fears international isolation, breach with Washington; possibly, aware of historic role, like Begin, Sharon, and Olmert before him
  • Obama: Needs Arab (Muslim) street; pillar of foreign policy: engagement, collective security, globalization; avoid being maneuvered into showdown with Iran
  • World is watching; sick of violence in Middle East; oil shocks disrupt recovery
  • Jordanian, Egyptian regimes need resolution
What they have going for them
  • Palestinian economy growing, middle class leaders dare not fail, fear Islamist vise
  • Israeli economy needs global markets; business/professional class fears "South Africa," neo-orthodox ethos of the settlers, increase of "parasites," emigration of their educated kids
  • All leaders raising stakes, failure will precipitate violence—“last chance”
  • Best leaders either side likely to have: Fayyad best to win over Israeli center, Netanyahu best to win over Israeli right
  • Obama administration, Petraeus, understand urgency; willing to rally Europe, Arab League
Where they will break down
  • Status of Jerusalem; East Jerusalem part of Palestine? Moment of truth for "Kingdom of Judea"
  • Status of Ariel; town of 15,000, part of Israel, or dismantled?; really, ectopic pregnancy
  • Timing and placement of international forces; need to expand "Area C" for Palestinian market development
  • Other issues—border, refugees—tractable
  • Settlements freeze unfrozen? Never completely frozen; Netanyahu will not defy Obama over this, precipitate Abbas walkout
When they will break down
  • Netanyahu fears staking political future on opposition support, splitting Likud
  • Israeli--really Jerusalem--streets violently oppose any agreement; Netanyahu refuses to put state above "Zionist" values
  • Renewed war with Hamas and/or Hezbollah
  • Attack on, by, Iran (highly unlikely)
Why they may succeed
  • Appropriate context for Obama to put thumb on the scales; knows the issues intimately;
  • Obama cannot afford to lose; throw away leadership of West; go into presidential election unpresidential
  • War fatigue all around; new generations looking for change; all but fanatics disdain status quo
  • Nothing to do with methods of “effective negotiation”; all core issues known; but inertia of diplomacy brings matters to a head
What consequences if fail
  • East Jerusalem explodes; then... you don't want to know