A well-known Israeli maxim — attributed to Israel’s legendary foreign minister Abba Eban — holds that “the Arabs [or Palestinians] never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The analysis of Israel’s position toward the API demonstrates that the Arabs and the Palestinians have no monopoly on missed opportunities in the century-long conflict. In fact, my research on missed opportunities in the conflict shows that Israel missed quite a few opportunities, of which the API was probably the greatest.
The API is still on the negotiating table. Only recently, Turki Al-Faisal, former director of the Saudi intelligence agency and former ambassador to the UK and US, argued that the initiative “still provides a template for peace.” Indeed, the convergence of the following developments in the Middle East has once again created an opportunity to relaunch the API: First, John Kerry’s failure to broker a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement due to both parties’ intransigent positions; second, the rise and success of jihadist elements in the Middle East, which creates fertile ground for potential cooperation between Israel and the moderate forces in the Arab world; third, the instability in the Arab world caused by the negative ramifications of the Arab Spring; fourth, the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which highlighted that only a regional solution to the conflict would be able to tackle the entire Palestinian problem. In light of these sea changes in the Middle East, the API seems to be the main avenue for a diplomatic breakthrough that would bring some stability to an area besieged by turmoil. Based on its history, the chances that Israel will pick up the gauntlet are slim, but the country now has an opportunity to correct mistakes made over the last 12 years.
The Taub Center for Israel Studies at NYU invites you to a lecture:
September 15, 2014
53 Washington Square South
Lessons Learned from the Israeli-Palestinian Peace-Finding Process
Professor Yair Hirschfeld, University of Haifa
Dr. Yair Hirschfeld will provide an insider account as to why Secretary Kerry’s Peace Initiative for the Middle East failed and discuss why a less ambitious effort would have prevented the foreseeable break-down of negotiations. Hirschfeld will argue that the definition of peace, as such, is decisive for a successful outcome. It has to be understood that “peace is not a piece of paper, or a given moment, but an ongoing process, when former enemies learn gradually to trust each other.”
Based on this basic understanding Hirschfeld will describe the causes that permitted the successful conclusion of the Oslo Accords, and the dramatic inside story, that caused later failures and set-backs. Hirschfeld will analyze the importance and problems of US mediation, of other inputs of the international community, as well as the impact of the regional powers, and particularly the ongoing struggle between radical militant Islamic state- and non-state actors, with the pragmatic pro-Western Arab states and Israel.
There are many who doubt that the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will lead to a solution, in spite of US secretary of state John Kerry’s efforts and the presumed commitment to peace of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. What has characterized the intractability of the conflict in the past, including the future of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, Israel’s national security concerns, and, in particular, the psychological dimension behind these conflicting issues, still remain in play. That intractability has been further aggravated by a faulty framework for the 2014 negotiations, the absence of leadership, the continued public recrimination of each side toward the other, mutual distrust, and the lack of commitment to reach an agreement that of necessity requires mutually painful concessions. This essay proposes a number of mechanisms and corrective measures that could appreciably enhance the prospect of reaching a peace agreement. Undergirding these proposals is the need for the United States to put its foot down and warn both the Israelis and Palestinians that, unless they negotiate in earnest based on Kerry’s proposed framework, there will be serious consequences resulting from a reassessment of its bilateral relations with both parties.
University of California Press is happy to notify you that the new issue of Journal of Palestine Studies is now available. The online issues of this journal are hosted on JSTOR on behalf of University of California Press.