CMEP Fall newsletter: “The Politics of Security and Identity”
Churches for Middle East Peace fall 2011 newsletter, “The Politics of Security and Identity”
The current state of paralysis in negotiations between the government of Israel and the Palestinians was on display at the UN in New York in September. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas each gave speeches to the UN General Assembly appealing to their separate domestic political constituencies, but there was no serious effort to address the difficulties of bridging the real gaps that exist between the parties in the conflict.
Why is it so hard to move forward? Why not get on to the necessary task of negotiating the details of an agreement on the so-called final status issues when “everybody knows” what the details of the final outcome of each issue is likely to be? What, if anything, can be done about the impasse? What is the outlook for the coming months?
Any effort to promote an agreement by a sympathetic and interested party such as the United States must take into account the U.S.’ limited abilities to impact key factors in the region and the conflict, the lopsided power structures that leave one party well off with most of the negotiating “cards” and the other in great discomfort with a weaker “hand”, and the contrasting self-understanding of the two sides that means they seldom interact willingly. One result of these limitations is that efforts to resolve the problem as a territorial dispute (land for peace) get presented instead as an existential issue of life and death upon which there can be no compromise. Meanwhile, relentless Israeli settlement expansion into the Palestinian territories and the neighborhoods around Palestinian east Jerusalem puts into question the reality of professed Israeli desires for a negotiated agreement. The resulting daily demographic changes make the two state solution with a just, lasting and comprehensive peace harder than ever to achieve.