If there were even the slightest chance of the talks succeeding, I would say it was worth making one more attempt. However, in this situation, there is almost no such chance, whereas the grave implications of failure are both clear and painful. I call upon the U.S. administration to hurry up and change the goal of the talks. They should deal with what the parties are prepared to implement, and not with what they are forced to do as a result of American pressure: open negotiations on a partial and temporary agreement. [..]
This is no simple matter. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would find it difficult to persuade his voters to uproot settlements and withdraw from most of the West Bank without any mention of the finality of the dispute, or of other advantages that would arise from a permanent peace agreement.
The Palestinians would be afraid that any temporary agreement would become a permanent one because the world would delude itself into believing that this regional conflict had been resolved, even though issues such as refugees and the status of Jerusalem wouldn’t be included in such an agreement.
The way to overcome the opposition is to guarantee that upon the signing of the interim agreement, a presidential declaration would be made, defining the detailed principles for a permanent-status agreement, as a clear American position, while the Arab countries would be asked to partially implement the 2002 Arab peace initiative toward Israel, and to send commercial representatives to Israel, or to show other indications of normal relations, even if they aren’t full diplomatic ones.
Netanyahu wasn’t voted in by the right wing to divide East Jerusalem or to resolve, even symbolically, the problem of Palestinian refugees. The distance between his positions and the minimum claims of the pragmatic Palestinian camp can’t be bridged. Even when he talks about a willingness to accept the two-state solution, and even when he makes promises to surprise, he reverts to a long list of positions that don’t allow him to reach a historic compromise.
Abbas can’t implement a peace agreement with Israel because as long as Hamas retains control of Gaza, Gaza won’t be part of the solution, and there can’t be any “safe passage” between the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, it won’t be possible to work out land swaps between Israel and the West Bank because the area designated for them is the region surrounding the Gaza Strip, and no Israeli government would agree to hand over land adjacent to Gaza while it is still under Hamas control.
This situation means we need to pursue a different line of thought, which will lead us, at this stage, to a solution that isn’t ideal, but which is far better than the continuation of the current situation: a partial agreement.
(Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli justice minister, is the president of Beilink — Business Foreign Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own.)