Egypt: Middle East peace talks useless?

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After another round of direct talks in the idyllic setting of Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas will shake hands, smile and pose for the flashing cameras. But does this gesture, that has been repeated time and over again, hold any worth?

This step is as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian that was relaunched on September 2 in Washington. Also present at the negotiating table is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

After Tuesday’s negotiations, which is believed to be going well, Mrs Clinton announced that, “Today, the parties have begun a serious discussion on core issues. The parties agree that for these negotiations to succeed they must be kept strictly confidential, and treated with the upmost sensitivity”.

The resumption of direct talks initiated by the United States is deemed as extremely delicate and risks screeching to a premature halt.

Ten months ago, the Israeli government declared a partial moratorium on West Bank settlement construction. The freeze which ends on September 26 might not be renewed, despite claims that Israel is considering a number of concessions.

And without a freeze of construction of Israeli settlements on the land on which the Palestinian state would be built Mahmoud Abbas could bring the negotiations to an end.

Netanyahu in a minefield

According to a representative of the “colonialists”, cited by Euronews, “should Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government decide to abandon or postpone the construction of the iron wall on the mountains of Judea and Samaria, it will mean they are no longer worthy of representing the people of Israel and therefore this government is illegitimate”.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister pushed further on Sunday when he told members of Yisrael Beiteinu, Israel’s right wing party, that “a general peace agreement is unattainable—not next year and not within the next generation.” .

Binyamin Netanyahu thus finds himself in a minefield. Whilst he must satisfy the conservative fringe of his government, he is at the same time expected to show that he is willing to move the negotiations forward.

With the Israeli prime minister’s feet and hands bound, U.S. Secretary of State and President Hosni Mubarak will have to persuade Mahmoud Abbas not to leave them wanting at the negotiations table, even if partial construction is resumed in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But although the Israeli Prime Minister is being portrayed as being in a delicate position, Mahmoud Abbas has to deal with a situation whereby Palestinian lands are being strategically colonosied.

Robert Stevens, an analyst believes that the “talk of concessions and of a desire for “peace” (…) is designed to conceal “military preparations by the US against Iran”.

According to the analyst, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team saying, “Who does Abbas represent? Who gave him the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians? (…) Who has the right to surrender parts of Palestine to the enemy?”

Questions that Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina answered saying, he “falsified the elections (he) took power by fraud, and has no right to talk about Palestine, its chairman or his representatives.”

Meanwhile, both parties — Israeli and Palestinian — are yet to agree on the negotiation’s calendar. While Palestinians want them to start with the question of borders, Israel, on the other hand, wants to begin with security issues. A subject considered as vital by the Jewish state.

And Binyamin Netanyahu is still asking the Palestinians recognize the Jewish nature of Israel.

This chapter hides another; that of the right of return of Palestinian refugees. An undeniable right for Palestinians, that, according to analysts, will not be accepted by Israel by a long shot.

Nonetheless, it is believed that Mahmoud Abbas could call the shots should he decide to concede the resumption of construction in the settlements. A decision that could give him the right to negotiate the calendar for the peace talks.

But whether or not a calendar is established, Avigdor Lieberman believes that a “general peace agreement, which means an end to the conflict, a lack of mutual demands and acknowledging Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, is an unattainable goal. No historic and painful compromises are going to help”.

In short, Avigdor Lieberman believes that the talks are useless and that peace will never come.

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