The Jordan Times (Opinion)
May 10, 2010 - 12:00am

Palestinians and Israelis are projected to soon commence proximity talks, expected to touch on certain final status issues of crucial import, such as borders and security.

Proximity talks, by one definition, mean “diplomatic discussions between intermediaries, though the involved parties are close by”; in the case of Palestinians and Israelis, the notion seems to have gone awry, as it will involve an impartial representative acting as a mediator between parties who are willing to attend the same conference but unwilling to meet face to face.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is said, wants thorny issues to be delayed until negotiations with his Palestinian counterparts become face to face.

No miracles can be expected from either form of negotiation. Palestinians and Israelis have met and discussed - in secret or in plain view of the world - quite a few times in the past two decades, with nothing to show for. As much as one would like to see talks result in a different outcome this time, realism dictates at least caution.

The four-month period given for proximity talks to be held will most likely be used by Israel to mark time, to come up with more and more demands, and ask for more concessions - as if more could be made - until, again, the discussions will founder and the Palestinians will be pointed to for failing, once again, to seize the opportunity to attain peace.

All the while, Netanyahu will have to contend with his hard-line government breathing down his neck, just in case he might err and feel the urge to prove that he is a “man of peace”.

The Palestinians will probably act wounded and vulnerable - as a result of the division between the main factions and the absence of some sort of Arab unity and unanimity on the timing of talks with Israel.

Abbas will, most likely, need to consult his inner circle before making any move; the Palestinian side will also need to seek the approval of the Arab foreign ministers, which will make the process arduous and time consuming.

The US will act as a go-between with the immediate aim of narrowing the gap between the two parties, no easy feat since they are so far apart that, short of miracles, they are unlikely to see eye to eye on anything.

And then, in four months’ time, the situation in the region may change because of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Hizbollah, and the best to expect may be a call for direct talks.

Same old, all over again.


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