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Israeli-Palestinian Talks: What’s Going On?

October 8, 2010

The U.S. government has just announced the sale of 20 F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft to Israel.  So, what’s behind this sale of yet more sophisticated military equipment to Israel?  

The F-35 sale has presumably been in the works for some time.  Yet announcing it now can be seen as part of the U.S. administration’s larger effort to be viewed as firm in its commitment to Israel, even as it simultaneously puts pressure on the Netanyahu government to extend the ten-month, partial moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.  The ultimate aim is to keep Israeli-Palestinian negotiations alive.

The  moratorium expired on September 26.  Since then, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations seeking a two-state solution have been on hold.  Despite public and private pressure from the U.S. and other members of “the Quartet,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has to date refused to extend the settlement construction moratorium.  The U.S. is therefore working very hard behind the scenes to offer the Netanyahu government security and possibly other guarantees that will entice them to extend the moratorium on settlement construction.

Palestinian Authority President Abbas is maintaining his long-held position that Israel must choose between settlements and peace.  He had earlier indicated that he would announce “historical decisions” in conjunction with the October 8 Arab League meeting in Libya.  The meeting itself was apparently postponed from earlier in the week to allow more time for U.S. Special Envoy Mitchell and others to broker an agreement that will allow both sides to remain at the negotiating table.  No historic announcements were made, but the result of the meeting is that the U.S. administration has another month to continue seeking a solution to the impasse. 

Speculation about the substance of President Abbas’s reference to an announcement of “historical decisions” ranges from tendering his resignation as president to Palestinian-Israeli agreement on the borders to Hamas-Fateh reconciliation.  With respect to the last point, the international media attention and very-public wrangling over Israeli settlements has eclipsed brief reports in the Israeli and Palestinian press that Fateh and Hamas have been holding talks that could result in a reconciliation between the two major Palestinian political parties.  An eventual accord between Hamas and Fateh is seen by most observers as a necessary step to constructing a viable Palestinian state.

In sum, the negotiations are at a critical juncture.  Given the U.S.’s own internal political divides during this mid-term election period, it is very important that Congress support the Obama administration’s public commitment and efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement within one year.  President Obama recommitted his administration to that goal in his September 23 address to the United Nations General Assembly with these words:

[P]eace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well.  Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity.  And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel. …

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution.  And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it.  We can read familiar lists of grievances.  We can table the same resolutions.  We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate.  And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life.  We can do that. 

Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.  This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred.  This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves.  If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.  (Applause.)

With efforts underway to keep the negotiations on track, we at FCNL continue to be encouraged by the increasing reliance on nonviolence approaches to advocate for a Palestinian state and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas.  If you want to learn more about the inspirational story of one West Bank village’s unification around nonviolent resistance to the construction of the separation barrier, including Fateh-Hamas-Israeli cooperation, we recommend the documentary film Budrus.  It is being released this month in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and other U.S. locations.  For more details on locations and dates, please visit the Just Vision website: www.justvision.org/en/budrus.

4 Comments
  1. Mark permalink
    October 8, 2010 11:47 am

    It amazes me that entire idea of Peace and recognition of others is completely ignored. The Israelis do not admit to the presence of Arabs in Israel, if they did, the feelings,emotions and concerns of the Palestinians would be a concern. The settlers do not see what is wrong with their infringing on the property of others. The Palestinians go without water, food and electricity; they are basically being starved to death.
    We, the West or America love to sell weapons to Israel, so in a way, we are supporting the “Seperate but Equal” status.
    We have found those “Weapons of Mass destruction, they are being sold to Israel!

  2. Mark Grantham permalink
    October 14, 2010 3:57 pm

    I read this article again, hoping for some clarity of heart, but, alas none came. I suppose part of the reason that America has a problem with seeing peace is our feeling of guilt. Guilt that something was not done earlier to stop the atrocities of WW II. This is now 2010, and the West is sanctioning the starvation and discrimination of Palestinians! The Settlers are allowed to basically do as they wish, all in the name of Israel, but we forget about the Palestinians. These are people with families and feelings, they live there too! I was fortunate to meet many Palestinians during my stay in Syria, they want Peace, and they want “to go Home”. One older woman who I had the distinct pleasure of knowing was ousted from her family house. Her family had lived in this house for four generations! This was done in the name of Peace!
    It is time to end Discrimination, the time is NOW! When we approve a jewish and a non-Jewish state, we are approving a form of Apartheid! We, the West, has approved a Separate but Equal status for Palestinians, and this is wrong!
    I apologize if I have offended anyone, but my feelings are from the heart, and with careful and deliberate discernment!

  3. Philip Ratcliff permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:10 pm

    No peace will be achieved in the Middle East as long as the U.S. gives Israel billions of dollars a year, every year. The Israelis have no incentive to negotiate anything, as long as the billions are rolling in. The above article reports the sale of advanced military aircraft to Israel. It’s not a sale; it’s advancing the Israelis credit for the aircraft. In effect, the U.S. government is paying defense contractors to send the jets to Israel.
    Don’t expect the politicians to play hardball with Israel, and threaten to cut off the money unless the Israelis agree to a halt to settlement construction. U.S. politicians must kiss the ring of the powerful Israel lobby in this country.

  4. Mark Grantham permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:20 pm

    The Politicians must not bend to anyone! what has been sanctioned by America is Genocide, a complete elimination of a race: Palestinians! The ones who “elected” the politicians were not the residents of Israel. Why are they given planes and military goods? War is not the answer, now or ever! Settlements are a slap in the face of Palestinians! The settlers can have electricity,water, cable, food and the basic necessities of life, while the Palestinians barely exist!
    I feel it sad when I hear an Israeli say that Muslims HATE Israelis, but does this hatred not go both ways? A Jewish Israeli has certain laws and rules to follow, and that is great, but a non Jewish Israeli has a different set of rules to follow, but that is not okay, because they are not Jewish.
    I read this article for a third time, and only walked away with the terrible feeling of how absolutely powerful the institution of Lobbyists are. Shame that there are people right here with empty stomachs,addictions to conquer,children with terrible diseases, what a shame!

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