The future of the Peace Process depends upon alot of things but no progress is possible unless the three main players, the US, the Israelis, and the Palestinians, are politically able, at the same time, to engage in serious negotiations.
I. The Palestinians and the Arabs: As divided as ever and reconciliations talks between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo just fell_apart. Hamas claims that Egypt is not acting as a neutral mediator and their argument is supported by many influential Arab columnists, such as Fahmy Huwedi and Abdel Bari Atwan. The lead editorial in today’s Al-Quds Al-Arabilists six factors behind the collapse of the Cairo talks. The first factor behind the collapse is the alleged presence of a US-Israeli “veto” of any negotiations with Hamas and secondly, they blame the Egyptian government’s failure to act as a neutral mediator between the different factions. Only after this, does Al-Quds blame the Palestian factions themselves. Whatever the case, if the Palestinians can’t even negotiate a common front amongst themselves, its wishful thinking they will be ready to seriously negotiate with Israel in the near future.
II. The Israelis. Also not currently in a position to undertake serious negotiations with Livni locked in a tight election campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu. Livni’s failure to seal the deal and get the support necessary to become PM was a bad omen. If Netanyahu wins the upcoming election, its unlikely that the Israeli government (or the public) will be in a conciliatory mood. Supposedly, the Israeli public is wary about Obama and his commitment to standing firm against Iran which may favor the hard-liner Netanyahu is his battle with Livni. Whatever the case, if Netanyahu wins, the Peace Process, almost by definition, loses.
III. The United States. Washington is not a babysitter and can’t force people to negotiate if they don’t want to, which seems to be the case right now. But the big question is what approach will Obama take towards negotiations between Israel and Palestine and this is the central issue that concerns the Arab street and the key to improving US standing in the region. Everything else (Iraq, Afghanistan) is secondary. If, in general, we can say that Arabs prefer Obama, it is because they are expecting “change” on this issue. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that if Obama adapts the same policies towards Israel-Palestine, that US standing is going to improve. He’s going to have a window to show the Arabs something different, but it won’t be open forever.
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