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Get ready for more empty promises on Mideast peace

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

The ongoing peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis are not expected to yield tangible progress; it is more likely they will wrap up in signing ceremonies that are empty of any commitment.

If U.S. sponsored peace talks continue it would not be surprising to see one of the sides quitting the negotiations (the Palestinians I guess) out of desperation or provocation.

This is not a pessimistic attitude at all but predictions based on facts on the ground.

Reaching a compromise

In fact, pessimism has little significance in this context. We are already dispirited and dismayed just “giving it another try.”

Such a gloomy outlook is in fact not so gloomy when talking about the Middle East peace process that has long suffered from a profound and persistent deadlock, said to be broken by the return of the Palestinians and the Israelis brought to the negotiating table.

With all these gloomy scenarios in mind, one wonders if there is a point in having peace talks.

Raed Omari

But, at the time that the two sides were meeting in the U.S for highly confidential talks, the Israeli authorities have been embarking on a set of unilateral measures in the West Bank that are not only provocative but also illegal and in breach of international law.

Recently, a group of extremist Jewish settlers carried out a provocative break-in at the al-Aqsa mosque, igniting bloody clashes between prayer-goers and Israeli authorities near the holy site.

Not only that but the Israeli authorities announced the establishment of a platform in the southern area of the Buraq Courtyard in al-Aqsa mosque, the Old City which won the status of World Heritage Site in 1981.

Israel has also announced the so-called “Sharansky” compromise, which seeks to expand and raise the area adjacent to Buraq Courtyard at the expense of other Islamic parts of al-Haram al-Sharif, Islam's third holiest site.

In pleas to Jordan and the custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, site officials in the Old City have been accusing Israeli authorities of escorting dozens of Jewish tour groups to the site each month, disturbing prayers and facilitating the entry of extremists who advocate the destruction of al-Aqsa mosque.

Such moves have received strong condemnation from Palestinians and Arabs who see this as a provocative attempt to judaize Jerusalem and a threat to peace efforts.

In addition to the alarming settlements expansion in the West Bank, the Israeli policies can be said to be entering a provocative phase, leaving Palestinians in desperation of a possible peace deal.

What and how to discuss

Statehood is the Palestinians' ultimate goal behind their peace negotiations with the Israelis. To attain that goal, all final status issues, including refugees, water, borders and Jerusalem need to be handled for, if not, then what and why would they negotiate?

Though not explicitly announced, the Palestinians may be willing to make compromises over the refugees and water files, but when it comes to the other two final status issues (Jerusalem and borders) they just cannot afford any concessions because such a matter lies at the heart of their envisioned independent state.

The question that the Americans - the sponsors of the talks – might be unwilling to raise is: how it can be possible and promising for the Palestinians and the Israelis to discuss borders and Jerusalem when the two sides are wholeheartedly determined not to make any compromises?

Actually, both sides face dilemmas when it comes to statehood. For the Palestinians, an independent state on the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital is an irreversible demand. Similarly, expanding the state of Israel to include the entire West Bank (referred to in the Israeli theology as Judea and Samaria) is also a non-negotiable matter. Their acts on the ground prove this. For both sides, theology and mythology count in any peace deal.

Aside from the rhetoric of diplomacy and scenarios of hope, the Palestinians are left with very limited options to discuss with their Israeli peers at the negotiating table. Settlement expansion is devouring the remaining plots of land in the West Bank and the Israelis are relentlessly determined to declare Jerusalem a purely Jewish city.

The makings of any successful and fruitful negotiating endeavour are good intentions and encouraging atmosphere. Again, put aside the U.S. euphemism and rhetorical assurances and two ingredients, but such ingredients are not there.

While in the U.S for talks with the Israelis, the Palestinians are faced with facts on the grounds (settlement expansion) yet forced to smile in the faces of their Israeli counterparts and U.S. sponsors amidst unpleasant news from back home talking about Jewish settlers' assault on al-Aqsa mosque.

For the Palestinians, this is definitely not a comfortable atmosphere for talks with their Israeli counterparts unveiling apparently insincere intentions for a satisfactory peace deal.

Then what?

As they are only backed by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the Palestinians have no other choice but to stick to the two-state solution. In other words, they don't have a “plan b.”

The Israelis know this and that is why they are moving ahead with their unilateral measures on the ground with the aim of killing all possibilities for a two-state solution, benefiting from the state of chaos and turbulence prevailing in many Arab states.

Actually, all previous attempts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict have been marked with “words saying something and actions saying otherwise” to the point that each time the peace process involves one step forward, then ten steps back.

The 2013 peace talks are not expected to be exceptional. Seemingly, no breakthrough deal to be reached. This is what indications say. With all these gloomy scenarios in mind, one wonders if there is a point in having peace talks.

For the U.S President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, it is good to have the two sides talking to each after years of a peace process deadlock but, with regards to facts on the ground, nothing tangible is expected to emerge except for (maybe) a group photo for the Palestinians and the Israelis shaking hands at the White House Rose Garden.

Being pessimistic, if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to be resolved one day, it seems that it will not be based on the two-state solution as Israeli unilateral actions suggest otherwise. This is all with regards to facts on the grounds once again imposed by the Israeli authorities.

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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.