Why the Peace Process Always Fails; or, the Art of the Non-Deal

During the Israel-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak came to then-President Bill Clinton with an offer for the creation of a Palestinian state, complete with many concessions on what seemed to be key points of contention. Delighted at having finally achieved a breakthrough, Clinton brought the offer to Yasir Arafat—who promptly rejected it, refusing even to make a counteroffer or to list for the horrified American president his objections to the proposal. As this scene has played out time and again over the decades, Ran Baratz suggests that attempts at peacemaking are based on faulty assumptions:

[Peace] talks always fail because the Palestinians are not interested in negotiating a permanent agreement. [Rejecting such agreements] is not a negotiation tactic that fails each time, but the exact opposite: it is a successful strategy of abstention. . . . If this theory sounds strange, it is only because we have become accustomed not only to the idea that everyone always prefers a peace treaty but also to the paradigm that is rooted in [so-called] “missed historical opportunities.”

The truth is that when there is joint will to reach an agreement, there is no need for unique “historical opportunities.” But when there is no such will, there is only an illusion of opportunities. The bitter joke that “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” is completely illogical. Since the Palestinians don’t want the end that these “opportunities” present, for them these are not opportunities at all—more like historical traps. That is why they need to be avoided rather than taken advantage of. . . .

If President Trump [is interested in resuming the peace process], I would ask him to perform a simple test: before he commits to negotiations, he should ask the Palestinians for their peace plan—the Israelis’ he has long had. If he receives one, by all means, try another round of negotiations. But if the Palestinians send him—as Arafat used to say—“to drink Gaza’s seawater,” it’s a sign that nothing has changed and failure is looming on the horizon.

Read more at Mida

More about: Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, Yasir Arafat


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy