Thursday, September 16, 2010

It needs saying ...

I've said this before in other places but it should be said here as well. Jeffrey Goldberg is my new intellectual hero. His insight into the conflict here is balanced, informed, intelligent, and mercifully moderate.

In a blog post today he sums up his feelings on the current round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the brevity the subject deserves. It just so happens that his thoughts closely mirror my own.
In other words, the maximum the Israelis can afford to offer is less than the minimum the Palestinians can accept. Maybe things will change if Hamas rule of Gaza, and settler rule of the West Bank, come to an end. But I'm not seeing that right now.
I'm not one for brevity, however, so I will elaborate a bit on the big issues and the huge gulf that exists between the sides.

1. Palestinian Refugees: The Palestinians continue to insist, publicly at least, that they will never relinquish the so called right of return. On the other hand, there is practically zero support to concede on this issues amongst Israel's leadership or the Israeli public.

If somehow a Palestinian leader agreed to concede on this issue, there is no evidence that the Palestinian public, both in the territories and across the world, would accept this concession.

2. Jerusalem: The standard formulation for peace calls for a division of Jerusalem. Well that sounds easy enough until you actually start to think about what that means. While most Israeli won't have too much trouble giving up the city's Arab neighborhoods, the really tricky part is the Old City.

How do you divide between two countries something not much larger than Disneyland? How do you split up the Temple Mount and all the other sensitive religious spots? I've seen some of the compromises people have come up with and none of them seem realistic.

Yaacov Lozowick has written a series of posts on this subject and their worth checking out.

3. Borders: This is probably the easiest issue to resolve and yet it's still a nightmare. While both sides would be willing to accept mutual and agreed border exchanges, the extent of those land swaps are still highly debatable.

One big question, for example, is the West Bank city of Ariel. Most Israelis consider it a settlement in the consensus, while the Palestinians say it's a non-starter because it would break up the continuity of their state, even though it wont.

It short, there is much more room for pessimism than there is optimism here.

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