CMEP Newsletter: Upheaval Provides Opportunity

CMEP Newsletter: Upheaval Provides Opportunity

The upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere in Arab world in February will have a major impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What that impact will be is not yet clear, but it may well create new opportunities for progress towards an agreement.  

In early January CMEP Board, staff, and Leadership Council members visited Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Egypt. We returned profoundly discouraged.

Mixed Signals on the Ground

On the one hand the West Bank is quiet, secure, and prospering. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has established “one gun and one law,” extending security throughout the West Bank with the help of aid from the United States. Gone are the independent armed militias that roamed in the days of Yasser Arafat. Suicide attacks have stopped. The economy is improving. We met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and U.S. officials who are proud of the strides the PA has made in its capacity to govern — schools, roads, and sanitation systems built, taxes collected, and professionalism encouraged. Israel also has benefitted from the greater security. Neither Hamas in Gaza nor Hezbollah in southern Lebanon seem anxious to resume hostilities.

On the other hand the political process that could lead to the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state is frozen. Strenuous U.S. attempts to re-launch direct negotiations last fall yielded few results. Israel did not accept U.S. pleas at the UN, nor U.S. offers of significant security assistance in return for a 90-day suspension of new settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israeli plans for new construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to move forward. We heard repeatedly from many different sources that lack of political progress by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in negotiations with Israel could jeopardize the administrative gains made by Prime Minster Fayyad.  There were even dark hints that the only way out of the impasse might be violence – or popular opposition to the PA for its failure, despite cooperation with the United States and Israel, to make progress towards creation of a Palestinian state.

Click here to continue reading the newsletter in full, including sections on:

  • Al Jazeera’s “Palestine Papers”
  • Reason for Hope?
  • Regional Context
  • What’s Next