Tags: hamas peace talks

Analysis: Peace Looks Like Mission Impossible

Thursday, 02 Sep 2010 06:50 AM



WASHINGTON – “Look around,” a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s entourage said on the prime minister’s plane, just before it landed in Washington on Tuesday, two hours after Netanyahu – in flight – heard about the terrorist attack near Kiryat Arba.

“Does anyone here look surprised?” And, indeed, no one was surprised by the attack that killed four people and orphaned seven children. Outraged? Yes. Angry? Yes. Frustrated? Yes.

But surprised? Not really.

The surprise, if there was any, was that the method the terrorists used to try to derail the talks was a drive-by shooting in the West Bank, rather than, say, a volley of missiles from Gaza. But there was no surprise at all that terrorists would use violence to try and derail the talks.

Which reveals one of the key weakness of this, and all other, diplomatic processes: What to do with Hamas.

How do you deal with it? How do you neutralize it? Even more so, how do you neutralize one of its major supporters, and the master of other terrorist organizations – Iran? It was clear from the very beginning that when the US announced a couple of weeks ago the relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, that Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah were not going to sit quietly on the sidelines and applaud graciously, but would rather try to torpedo the talks, and do so in the only way they know how – through terrorism.

Though it was clear to everyone, little of the pre-talks public discussion over the last few weeks referred to this problem. There was a lot of talk about whether or not to end the settlement construction moratorium, but nothing about how to deal with the terrorism that would surely come in the wake of these talks.

A senior US official who visited Israel two weeks ago was asked specifically if the US had given thought to what would surely be attempts to scuttle the talks through violence, and how it was preparing to deal with it. The official said the administration was aware of the threat, and was doing everything it could to neutralize it. He did not provide specifics.

Hamas – again – is the giant elephant in the room in these talks. Like at Annapolis three years ago, the sides are sitting down to discuss an arrangement that ostensibly will lead to an end to the conflict, without dealing – at least publicly – with the primary question: what to do about Hamas.

The settlement construction moratorium is an issue that can be finessed. But what about Hamas?

The relaunch of the talks in Washington has been accompanied by the lowest expectations of any diplomatic process in the region over the last 20 years. And with good reason.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspect of all these processes is that even if the Palestinian Authority and Israel could indeed reach an agreement, there are innumerable actors in the region who are hell-bent on making sure it doesn’t transpire.

At the beginning of US President Barack Obama’s term there was much talk about how solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would help the international community deal with Iran, and that if Israel just showed more flexibility with the Palestinians, Iran could be dealt with more readily.

Tuesday’s terror attack shows that the linkage runs the other way. Deal with Iran, deal with the terrorist elements determined on scuttling anything that would lead to stability, and then it would perhaps be possible to reach an agreement. But if you don’t, then the terrorists, fed and nourished by Iran and Syria, will continue to shoot whenever talks begin.

It is a good thing that no one, in light of Tuesday’s outrage, is talking – as they have in the past – about “necessary sacrifices on the path to peace,” because after nearly 20 years those arguments run perilously thin.

Especially to the seven children left orphaned Tuesday night.

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2010-50-02
Thursday, 02 Sep 2010 06:50 AM
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