Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Condi might get for Israel/Palestine

I almost resent, as I've mentioned before, that I find Dennis Ross's articles on curent international issues so sensible, but there it is. Here's his take on SecState Condi Rice's current efforts to get some kind of progress going on Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. We scolded her in the Register, noting that peace agreements, if they come, tend to come on the timetable of the parties involved, not just when the U.S. thinks it would be nice (usually when an outgoing president is thinking about his legacy).

Ross would probably agree, but he has some constructive suggestions nonetheless. He notes that both Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas are in relatively weak positions domestically and not in a good position to deliver on promises. If they can't come to agreement on core issues like Jerusalem, refugees or borders, however:

"she might go for lesser, but still important agreement on: the scope of sovereignty, state to state relations, and a process to begin to develop such relations; Israeli territorial withdrawal(s) from the West Bank conditioned on agreed milestones on Palestinian (or others') performance on security; a freeze on expansion of existing Israeli settlements and a commitment not to develop the E-1 area; an ongoing process with agreed criteria on Palestinian prisoner releases to ensure at least some prisoners are released every few weeks; a serious mechanism (with leadership involvement) for ending incitement and the teaching of hatred; working groups to develop options on Jerusalem, refugees and final borders; and implementation committees to ensure all obligations are fulfilled."

Condi's meeting will be sometime in November. If the result is typical diplo-speak -- high-sounding but vague principles developed after "frank" talks -- you can safely call it a failure. If the final statement includes some of these measures, there's just an outside chance that some building blocks toward an eventual settlement are maybe being put in place. It probably won't happen before Dubya leaves office, but it might be constructive nonetheless.

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