Important Prerequisites for Success of Peace Negotiations

  • 22 August 2010

On Friday the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced that direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis will resume in the American capital on September 2. This is a significant development in the Middle East peace process especially because there is an international consensus on the need to make these negotiations successful. The statement of the Quartet in this regard clearly called Israel to cease its colony-building activities in the West Bank and to approve the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders of the territories it occupies since 1967 war. Meanwhile, Clinton declared that, through these negotiations, the US is aiming to facilitate an agreement within a year. The US and the Quartet’s interest in resuming these negotiations reflects the international community’s growing awareness of the severity of the problem and its implications on the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The experience of recent years has proved that the stalemate in the peace process has been the main cause of regional tension. This has fueled extremism and has prompted militant forces in the region to promote their destructive ideas seeking to promote a culture of violence. Undoubtedly, resuming direct negotiations will be an important milestone in the direction of resolving the issue. However, it is of utmost importance to successfully conclude these talks so that they do not end up becoming another void circle in a series of negotiations that lead nowhere. There may be an international consensus and a clear approval of the Palestinian Authority and Israel as representatives of either side, but this is still not enough. There must also be a clear mechanism that translates all these positive factors into concrete steps. If that doesn’t happen, these talks may go down the path of indirect negotiations that began in May and failed to achieve anything significant.

The success of these negotiations depends on several major factors. The first factor is that the reference to any negotiating process should be grounded in the peace process as it started during the Madrid Conference even though the Netanyahu government insists on entering negotiations without any preconditions. Secondly, Israel should really demonstrate that it is serious about true peace and should stop its colony-building activities. Continuing with these settlement plans would destroy the chances of success during these talks. Thirdly, the international community in general and major powers in particular should put pressure on Israel to respect its obligations to the peace process. The ball is now in Israel’s court and it must prove that this time it is really working towards peace and isn’t maneuvering to gain time, which has been the main reason behind the deadlock in recent years.