A Mideast Peace 'Bridge' Too Far?

U.S. Compromises May Not Spur Sides To Reach Deal

Bridge to Nowhere? With Mideast peace talks foundering, John Kerry may soon present U.S. ‘bridging proposals’ to move the process forward. An informed scorecard says it might not do much good.
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Bridge to Nowhere? With Mideast peace talks foundering, John Kerry may soon present U.S. ‘bridging proposals’ to move the process forward. An informed scorecard says it might not do much good.

By Yossi Alpher

Published December 23, 2013.
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A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama revealed that the current objective of American-led Israeli-Palestinian talks about a two-state solution is a “framework agreement.” This document, he explained, would not “address every single detail, but gets us to a point where everybody recognizes [that it is] better to move forward than [to] move backwards.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the same Saban Forum, in Washington, noted that a framework agreement “will have to address all the core issues” and be able to lead to a “full-on peace treaty.”

Judging by the West Bank security plan presented recently to the two sides by Kerry and John Allen, a retired Marine Corps general, Washington might come forward with bridging proposals as it becomes clear that the framework agreement essentially defines the gaps between the two sides’ positions on each key issue. According to some reports, it will do so in late January, regardless of the status of the framework agreement.

There is no assurance, and probably little likelihood, that the current negotiations will get anywhere substantial. But suppose they do. Suppose Israeli settlement activitiy doesn’t cause negotiations to collapse, and that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Mahmoud Abbas, cooperate in the “framework agreement” venture.

Based on long years of monitoring the Israeli, Palestinian and American positions on all the final-status issues, we can speculate as to what the gaps in a framework agreement might conceivably look like, what the resultant American bridging proposals might contain and how the parties might react.

Security: Israel wants a virtually open-ended presence of the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley, at West Bank-Jordan border crossings and at early warning stations in the West Bank. The PLO would accept an international security presence but no Israelis. Here the United States has already submitted a bridging proposal for a territorially limited Israeli presence whose duration beyond 10 years would depend on Palestinian compliance with security demands. The PLO has rejected it, and Israel wants modifications.

Prediction: A compromise can be found.


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