Middle East: Talking About Talks

After coming so close to a solution, Palestinians and Israelis seem only capable of blaming each other for the collapse of the peace process while the violence spirals out of control. The Arabs have stepped in with a Saudi proposal, giving reassurance to Israel that normal relations will begin once peace is achieved. The Americans are keen to organise an international conference. Despair is mixed with déjà vu, not least among thousands of Palestinian refugees, as all of this has been tried before. What chance is there for it to work this time? Could it be just a question of mechanisms?

The World Today Updated 23 October 2020 Published 1 July 2002 6 minute READ

Nadim Shehadi

Former Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme

Both sides repeat that the solution is obvious. Its elements are broadly based on the principles outlined by former President Bill Clinton just before the last round of negotiations at Taba in January last year. Both agree that they have lost faith in their ‘partners’ for peace: they are both committed to peace but not with each other.

The obituary of the Oslo process has been written many times. It was an era dedicated to brokering a deal, even a bad deal, and coping with the consequences later.

The talks broke down not because the components of the deal were not there, but because the mechanism was flawed. Both parties are powerless to rescue the situation. In fact, they may be victims of a process doomed to failure, not because peace itself is impossible, but because the negotiations were structured wrongly.

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