Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Right Game

By Walid M. Sadi
This comment was published in Jordan Times on 14/11/2010

On the surface of things, it appears that peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been put on the back burner. There is hardly any whisper about where the on-again, off-again peace talks are now.

As a matter of fact, however, much is being negotiated behind the scenes, away from the limelight.

The US is said to have continued the negotiation process by pressing or introducing some ideas of its own on how to advance the seemingly stalled peace talks. Secret talks are actually much more beneficial and fruitful than open public negotiations that are conducted under the spotlight and the strain of publicity and openness.

The problem, however, is not related to whether the negotiations are indeed secret or not, but rather the basis on which they are conducted.

There are persistent reports that one of the emerging negotiating tactics being advanced by the US is “giving” the Palestinians ultimate sovereignty rights over East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, but making them lease it to Israel for about 40 years or so.

The notion of leasing in this framework is equivalent to “giving” the Palestinians what is rightly their but postponing delivery of this right for many decades.

At the end of the game the Palestinians would be getting a recognition of their rights at a time when it does not require recognition if international law is taken into consideration. Israel has been occupying Palestinian lands for decades but would get the “right” to occupy them for another four or five decades.

So what is in effect the end game in this negotiating tactic?

It must be pointed out that Palestinians’ sovereignty over their occupied lands is a right that already exits independent of any Israel recognition. Accordingly, the Palestinians would be getting nothing under the formula marketed by Washington and there is no value to this Israeli recognition of Palestinians sovereignty over their territories.

This new negotiating equation is a green light for Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories for many more years.

Israel was able to occupy territories belonging to the Arab side for so long, in defiance of international law and several UN Security Council resolutions, so what is to prevent it from flouting international legitimacy once again to maintain its grip on the leased lands forever?

The Palestinians must be weary of this seemingly benign negotiating tactic because they will end up being the losers. What the two sides must aim for, instead, is a true and bona fide winning situation. This could be the ultimate secret of any successful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

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