Prospects of Palestinian-Israeli negotiation process
YEREVAN, JUNE 6, ARMENPRESS:
The US President Barack Obama's Administration has exerted noticeable efforts in 2009-2010 for registering progress in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict settlement process. The efforts of the US party have not though brought up serious results. The direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine launched in September 2010 were interrupted after a while as irrespective of the stubborn demands of the American side the Israeli authorities refused to prolong the time of the decision of 10-month long freezing of the apartment construction implemented by Israel in the Western Coast. In their turn, the representatives of Palestinian autonomy refused to continue the negotiations in conditions of continuation of the apartment building. From late 2010 the negotiations stopped de facto and it contains a serious danger of further destabilization. The resignation of US special envoy George Mitchell May 13, 2011 testified the creation of deadlock in the settlement of the conflict.
The events taking place in the Middle East in 2011 once again proved the fragility of regional stability. In the created conditions, Obama's Administration was trying to revive the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation process, viewing this step in the pre-context of increase of its own influence in the region.
The issue of registering progress in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations was touched upon at the May 19, 2011 speech of Obama dedicated to the events taking place in the Middle East. Announcing about the assistance to the democratic developments in the region, the US president referred to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, presenting his own view over the basic principles of its regulation. Obama stated that the only acceptable way of the conflict settlement is the creation of two independent states, by the way the borders of Palestine and Israel should be based on the borders existing before the 6-day war in 1967, at the same time the parties must exchange certain territories.
The US President stated that the other issues in the negotiations, including the ones connected with the Palestinian refugees and final status of Jerusalem must be discussed after the settlement of the issue of territories and safety issues. Obama also criticized the intention of raising the issue of recognition of the Palestinian independence at the UN General Assembly, noting that the issue may be regulated on the basis of arrangements reached through exclusively bilateral negotiations.
May 20, 2011 in Washington Obama met with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and among a number of issues discussed the possibility of resuming the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
Prime Minister of Israel, though, roughly reacted on Obama's viewpoints over principles of the conflict settlement. Stating that Israel is ready for the establishment of peace, he noted that the establishment of stable and long-lasting peace is possible in case of presenting exclusively realistic principles. Netanyahu noted that Israel will never agree to return to the 1967 borders as it is impossible to defend them and this step will directly endanger the strategic interests of Israel. He also noted that Israel excludes the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, instead suggesting them negotiate in the territory of the future independent Palestine.
The obstacle for resuming the negotiations between Israel and Palestine is also the agreement signed May 4, 2011 in Cairo between HAMAS and FATAH aimed at unification of two main forces of Palestine. The agreement also intended formation of transition government, which in one year must have created conditions for organization of elections in the territory of autonomy.
The Israeli authorities have many times stated that they are not going to negotiate with the government of Palestine if the latter includes representatives of HAMAS who are denying the right of existence of Israel. This issue was touched upon by the US President Obama at the May 19, 2011 speech, noting that the engagement of representatives of HAMAS in the government of Palestine creates additional issues on the way of resuming the talks.
The own viewpoint on Palestinian-Israeli talks was expressed at the May 22, 2011 in the speech delivered at the "American-Israeli Public Relations Committee's" annual congress. This speech in certain way differed from the one voiced three days earlier in the Department of State. Referring to the issue on the borders of future and free Palestine and Israel, Obama stated that the restoration of the 1967 borders, with the simultaneous exchange of territories, supposes that the new borders of the two states will differ from the borders of 1967 and the number of differences and the nature will be decided at the negotiations, during which the changes registered during the 44 years will be taken into consideration.
At the same time Obama noted that currently in the territories that are under the control of Israel as a result of high tempo of growth of the Palestinian population, Israel will face serious issues in preserving the Jewish nature in Israel.
The official position of Israel over the Arab-Israeli negotiations was presented by Benjamin Netanyahu in his speech May 24, 2011 in the US Congress. Netanyahu once again stated that Israel will never agree to return to the 1967 borders and accept the Palestinian refugees and their heirs in the territory of Israel. The prime minister of Israel referred to the issue of belonging of Jerusalem, pointing out that the town will never be divided into parts and will continue being the capital of Israel. Netanyahu also stated that the security of Israel demands full disarmament of the future Palestinian state. The speech of Netanyahu was several times interrupted with applauses which testified the huge impact of the Jewish lobby in the US Congress. It is obvious that in these conditions it will be difficult for President Obama to exert pressure on Israel. The presidential election campaign for 2012 has already launched in the United States which creates additional issues for Obama's Administration.
The representatives of the Palestinian autonomy strictly criticized the speech of the prime minister of Israel in the US Congress, stating that Israel is not ready for settlement with mutual concessions and the conditions forwarded by Netanyahu are unacceptable for Palestine.
The voicing of the recognition of independent Palestine and its membership to UN at the UN General Assembly may seriously impede the process of negotiations. May 28, 2011 League of Arab States defended the initiative. Head of the Palestinian autonomy Mahmud Abas stated that the recognition of independence of Palestine by the UN in created conditions was the only way out from the deadlock as the speech of Netanyahu at the US Congress testifies that Israel is not ready for the establishment of peace.
More probably Obama's Administration in the coming months will continue exerting efforts for resuming the negotiations and with it preventing the discussion of the issue of Palestine's independence at the UN. At the same time, taking into consideration the tough position of the current leadership of Israel, the possibility of launch of the new phase of negotiations is rather small.