31 July 2013

About the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

If you belong to the tiny but exceptionally brilliant group of people who have been following this humble soapbox from the beginning, you might remember that my starting premise was the critical need for and the strong likelihood of a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians on the one hand and between Turks and Kurds on the other.

In that sense, you would think that the newly announced negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement should make me happy. After all, I ventured a hypothesis and stood by my prediction through thick and thin and it happened. Who cares if only a handful of people know about it, right?

Normally, I would be tempted to gloat. Almost. But not now, as I am somewhat worried. The Saudis changed the regional equation by convincing General al-Sisi to oust Egypt's democratically elected president.

You see, previously, the setting was of a Muslim Brotherhood president trying very hard to contain his rank and file from who are vociferously asking the rejection of Camp David accords. This setup is what tilted the balance of power between Israel and Palestinians a little bit. Accordingly, throughout the process, every time Netanyahu behaved in an intransigent manner, you could get Mursi to act like he was unable to contain the hostile masses. As I mentioned before, the army was there as a security switch, in case Mursi decided to give in to those masses.

Now that the army is in power, there is no such scenario. Egypt is back to Mubarak era -minus Mubarak- and I am sure that the army will not lift a finger to elevate the Palestinian negotiating positions. Livni is the chief negotiator but Bennett is a more powerful figure in cabinet. The settlers in Israel are like tea party folks in the US: their hold over power is disproportionate to their numbers. I don't think that Yesh Atid is an effective counter balance.

The other problem is Hamas. Now that General Sisi decided to charge Mursi with the crime of colluding with Hamas, they know that their interlocutors in Egypt are hostile to them. What is their motivation to participate in a process that largely excludes them? And from the Israeli perspective, before the coup in Egypt, Hamas was an important entity that they needed to include because they were supported by Mursi. Now Hamas is in the wilderness as their only patron is Iran.

Meshaal's patron Qatar is also out of the picture. Which means that Haniyeh has now the upper hand within Hamas. But Haniyeh has no desire to have peace with Israel. He wants Israel to disappear.

So, you can see that, in its current form the process is doomed. And this is from the only person who predicted its occurrence almost three years ago.

Unless the situation in Syria and Egypt unfolds in a different direction, I am not holding my breath.

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