May 22, 2014
The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks: A Review by Amb. Michael Oren
During a discussion of the disintegration of the most recent round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Oren recalled a history of failed negotiations: The Oslo Accords of 1993, the Camp David Accords in 2000, the 2008 peace negotiations, and now again, in April 2014. He argued that these talks have often been asymmetrical, with Israel offering significant concessions to the Palestinians in return for no agreement and sometimes worse, a litany of terror attacks.
This time, he said, is not much different. If anything, the talks have become "a peace digression." He attributed several current realities to this claim, sharing that "back in 2000 and 2008, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met regularly. Today they do not officially meet at all;" additionally, the ruling party of the West Bank, al-Fatah, is in the midst of reconciling ties with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization; and in past negotiations, the Palestinians have been willing to negotiate without preconditions, yet today, they will only "agree to negotiate after their conditions are met."
Furthermore, Oren identified that Israel's fatal flaw—with Oslo—was that "Israel recognized the existence of a Palestinian people, but the Palestinians did not recognize the Jewish people, just the State of Israel."
This stipulation was again a point of contention in this year's peace negotiations as Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority refused to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.
Where can both sides go from here? Is there a viable alternative to achieve peace in the region? Ambassador Oren believes there might be. He calls it, 'Plan B', and supposes that since the Palestinians have continuously failed to reach an agreement with the Israelis, perhaps a different approach will be required in achieving a two-state solution. 'Plan B' proposes that Israel could unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, leaving Jerusalem unified and the Jewish Holy sites under Israel's jurisdiction. Oren explains, "it is an initiative designed to ensure Israel's democratic and Jewish integrity and enable it to defend itself—all the while keeping the door open to a more permanent negotiated solution." In order to preserve Israel's security, he advocates for an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and allow his government to declare its borders so that they may "incorporate the maximum number of Israelis but the minimum number of Palestinians." This, Oren believes, will "effectively end what the Palestinians—and virtually the entire world—call the occupation."
Ambassador Oren was cautious in clarifying that "this is not the Gaza disengagement redux" and that, as previously mentioned, "Israel will not go back to the '67 lines." A brief outline of his 'Plan B' will be available online shortly.