Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oslo, Only Weaker?

Ynet reports on new developments in Middle East peacemaking:
"According to Palestinian sources, the two sides are to reach a general agreement on principles by the end of the year that would not include reference to the questions of Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees.

"The agreement would be a temporary one – valid for five years – during which the PA would be granted some municipal sovereignty in the capital and would be allowed to provide various services to the Palestinian residents of the city.

"Ynet has learned that this new outline has been presented to Israel and the Palestinians by US mediators, and that the two sides have been discussing it in recent weeks. While both sides are reluctant to accept the proposal, a source involved in the talks said that American pressure may force them to do so...

"The final stage negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue of Jerusalem will be postponed by five years, according to a new proposal discussed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia, a Palestinian source told Ynet.

"The proposal, submitted by the US, states that a settlement of the refugee problem would also be delayed by a few years."

I flipped the order of the two excerpts because I thought it was flowed better. I can see how Olmert's government is reluctant to sign off on this as presented, as for some reason Israelis are convinced the Oslo years were a great boon for the Palestinians in which they themselves got nothing. It's not clear what Olmert can point to here that would make them accept letting the Palestinian Authority operate in Jerusalem. The issue of settlements is also not addressed in these leaks. "Declaration of principles" has a rather hollow ring to it in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it's not at all clear what purpose this serves except to please the lame-duck Bush administration and possibly bolster Olmert's and Abbas's political standing. Of course, since those are the party leaders in each country most committed to peace, that isn't nothing.

Regular readers won't be surprised, though, to learn I think this might be the best we can expect. The largest obstacle to peace right now, frankly, is the Qassam fire from Gaza. (And yes, I know Palestinians are just as bothered by IDF operations as Israelis are by the situation in Sderot, but the power imbalance is such that I simply don't see that mattering much.) Resolving that will mean either dealing with Hamas or an improvement in Israel's defensive technology that is still a few years away.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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