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Palestinian-Israeli Negotiations

The late Palestinian writer, Emile Habibi has coined the Arabic word "AlMutashail" out of the two halves of the Arabic words (mutafail /optimist and mutashaim /pessimist) to describe someone who is both an optimist and pessimist-an "op-pessimist". His word should be remembered upon hearing the restart of peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

The reason for optimism is that the two sides are at last talking, negotiating and have agreed to do so for nine months with everything on the table. That might breathe life in the dormant two-State solution and, hopefully, save the remaining 22% of mandate Palestine from being swallowed up by the settlers.  A two-State solution would also make it possible for Israel not to live as an isolated transplanted body (the way the Middle Ages crusaders or the French settlers in Algeria did).  The Palestinians will be spared the spectre of "transfer" or a repetition of the 1948 Nakba to "cleanse" Israel of all remaining Palestinians. This is a declared intention of several Israeli parties.  Peaceful co-existence is the best alternative. The Arab countries and Israel will all reap the dividends of peaceful cooperation.

Where does the danger to the negotiations lie?

First:  The US resolve has to be consistently and robustly firm.  The Financial Times (31 July 13) writer David Gardner has reminded us of what happened about the settlements: "When Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, refused to freeze settlement building, which Mr. Obama had called illegitimate, the president not only capitulated. In February 2011, he vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning resumed colonisation".

Assured of such uncritical and unquestioning support, why should the Israeli far-right make any concessions for peace? In an attempt to scupper the present talks, Israel has already approved further settlement enlargement in both the West Bank and Jerusalem; this time with tacit US agreement and apparently as a price for freeing prisoners.  According to official US media (e.g. Al Hurra Arabic Television Channel) the Palestinians knew beforehand about impending settlement building.  This means that they have dropped the condition of "freezing settlements" that has led to the collapse of the previous peace move.  A huge act of flexibility which could only have come as a result of an undeclared "guarantee".

Second:  The determination of Israeli far-right extremists and their allies in the US Israel lobby and evangelical fanatics should not be underestimated.

In the July-August 2002 Issue of Commentary, Victor Davis Hanson wrote the following: "Only by seeking to spark disequilibrium, if not outright chaos, do we stand a chance of ridding the world of the likes of Bin Laden, Arafat and Saddam Hussein"…"A new Iraq might start the fall of dominoes in the Gulf that could wipe out the entire foul nest behind September 11".

Seven months after this article, Iraq was invaded with the resulting disequilibrium!

The Saudi-Arab League peace plan was declared in the same year in which Hanson's article was written.  It remained unanswered by Israel.  Recent amendments to make it even more palatable to Israel have been praised by the US.

Third:  It is not a secret that the string of authoritarian regimes against which the Arab Spring has revolted were in place because they were seen as desirable for Israeli regional plans and strategies.

Fourth:  We in the Sudan have a direct stake in the success of the Washington negotiations because our rejection of the "redindianisation" of the Palestinians is at the root of attempts to isolate and suffocate our country (with different pretexts). Darfur was just a convenient pretext.

Fifth:  The Palestinian writer Emile Habibi died under occupation before seeing the peace he dreamt of.  The present writer has met many peace-loving Israelis from the Israel Democracy Institute, and has a great deal of respect for Israelis and Jews who reject what Archbishop Desmond Tutu called "apartheid in the holy land" and speak out bravely for justice to the Palestinians and against the blockade of Gaza.  Our common tragedy is that these are not decision makers.  Their views will not resonate much in the Israeli cabinet.

Sixth:   All op-pessimists should hope for success in the negotiations and praise John Kerry, the US Secretary of State for his persistence and determination.

This article first appeared on Sudan Vision

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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