The Middle East Channel

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators seek peace deal within nine months

After two days of direct Israeli and Palestinian talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the media on Tuesday the parties would aim to reach a "final status" agreement within the next nine months which would lead to an independent Palestinian state. Kerry said "all issues" would be on the table, "with one simple ...

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

After two days of direct Israeli and Palestinian talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the media on Tuesday the parties would aim to reach a "final status" agreement within the next nine months which would lead to an independent Palestinian state. Kerry said "all issues" would be on the table, "with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims." He addressed skeptics saying, "While I understand the skepticism, I don't share it, and I don't think we have time for it." The talks in Washington were mostly procedural, however formal negotiations will begin within two weeks either in Jerusalem or Ramallah. U.S. President Barack Obama met with the Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday aiming to take a more assertive role in the peace efforts, and the U.S. envoy Martin Indyk will attend the first round of talks. However, it is unclear how directly the Obama administration will be involved going forward. Additionally, it is uncertain whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will play more direct roles in the negotiations. Israel has committed to take "a number of steps in order to improve conditions in the West Bank and in Gaza" over the coming weeks and is expected to limit West Bank settlement construction. Additionally, it is expected that the Palestinians will avoid seeking recognition at the United Nations or other international organizations while participating in negotiations.

Syria

Iran and Syria have signed a $3.6 billion oil deal this week. In the agreement, Iran will supply Syria with oil in exchange for allowing Iran to make various investments in the war-torn country. Meanwhile, the Syrian government attacked the village of Khan al-Assal, the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in March. Rebel fighters captured the village, which is southwest of Aleppo, just over a week ago. Additionally, in a move to boost his public image, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has opened an Instagram account. The account with the handle "syrianpresidency" features pictures of Assad with cheering crowds and visiting hospital patients as well as several photos of Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad. The Syrian president is active in various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

After two days of direct Israeli and Palestinian talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the media on Tuesday the parties would aim to reach a "final status" agreement within the next nine months which would lead to an independent Palestinian state. Kerry said "all issues" would be on the table, "with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims." He addressed skeptics saying, "While I understand the skepticism, I don’t share it, and I don’t think we have time for it." The talks in Washington were mostly procedural, however formal negotiations will begin within two weeks either in Jerusalem or Ramallah. U.S. President Barack Obama met with the Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday aiming to take a more assertive role in the peace efforts, and the U.S. envoy Martin Indyk will attend the first round of talks. However, it is unclear how directly the Obama administration will be involved going forward. Additionally, it is uncertain whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will play more direct roles in the negotiations. Israel has committed to take "a number of steps in order to improve conditions in the West Bank and in Gaza" over the coming weeks and is expected to limit West Bank settlement construction. Additionally, it is expected that the Palestinians will avoid seeking recognition at the United Nations or other international organizations while participating in negotiations.

Syria

Iran and Syria have signed a $3.6 billion oil deal this week. In the agreement, Iran will supply Syria with oil in exchange for allowing Iran to make various investments in the war-torn country. Meanwhile, the Syrian government attacked the village of Khan al-Assal, the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in March. Rebel fighters captured the village, which is southwest of Aleppo, just over a week ago. Additionally, in a move to boost his public image, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has opened an Instagram account. The account with the handle "syrianpresidency" features pictures of Assad with cheering crowds and visiting hospital patients as well as several photos of Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad. The Syrian president is active in various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Headlines

  • The Philippines will likely keep its 342 peacekeepers in the Golan Heights with the U.N. mission monitoring the Israeli and Syrian border saying it is satisfied with measures taken to improve security.
  • A series of attacks including shoots and bombings of Shiite and Sunni mosques killed an estimated 18 people in Iraq Wednesday.
  • Kuwait’s emir has pardoned prisoners held on charges of insulting him "On the occasion of the last 10 days of Ramadan."

Arguments and Analysis

The New Mideast Talks: Much Risk, Little Hope, but Still We Must Try‘ (Aaron David Miller, International Herald Tribune)

"Many have questioned why Mr. Kerry is focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, while Syria is embroiled in civil war, Egypt is in political crisis, and Iran is moving to develop a nuclear weapons capacity. Negotiating this conflict first hardly seems the key to Middle East stability.

But the Israeli-Palestinian problem is a witches’ brew and always dynamic. A conflict-ending accord may not be possible now, but without a credible negotiation to manage the situation, it will only deteriorate further.

For Israel, the absence of serious negotiations would increase its isolation and rule out hope for a solution that could secure its values as a democratic Jewish state. Palestinians would grow even more polarized and aggrieved; they would find ways to challenge the occupation, emboldening Hamas and other Islamists to attack Israel with increasingly powerful weapons.

And an unresolved Palestinian issue would over time undermine Egypt’s and Jordan’s treaties with Israel, regardless of whether Islamists or secularists hold power in Cairo and Amman. It would also continue to drag down our credibility in the Arab world.

Talking for talking’s sake is not what I am proposing. That would make matters only worse. But a serious process toward achievable goals could build trust and reduce tensions."

A Falling-Out Among Brothers?‘ (Raphael Lefèvre, Sada)

"Most Brotherhood movements in the region are deeply heterogeneous, comprising a wide spectrum of views on issues of ideological, generational, and regional representation at the leadership level. The lack of deep reforms that reflect progress in some Brotherhood organizations has already led to divisions over the past two years. This was, for example, what pushed Abdelfattah Mourou and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, two prominent moderate Islamists, to split respectively from Ennahda and the Egyptian Brotherhood in 2011. At the same time in Syria, a group of younger Muslim Brothers who did not feel represented by the leadership of the local Brotherhood branch split and created the National Action Group (NAG), which is an active component within Syrian opposition bodies. So far, however, and despite these symbolic departures, the bulk of the membership of Brotherhood organizations around the region has remained loyal to the current leaderships. 

Conceivably, however, the current debate among Islamist ranks as to whether violence is a justifiable response to Morsi’s overthrow could become a wedge issue. The question of resorting to violence is a recurring theme, and in the mid-1980s caused a split within the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Although the factions later reconciled, tension remains. Similarly in Tunisia, successive attempts by a splinter group to unseat the Bourguiba and Ben Ali regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s caused a rift within the organization. It is precisely the memory of these splits that might soon fuel internal controversy when statements condoning political violence are made by party members and leaders. This time, however, if internal reform is not embraced, the split could be more than just temporary, given the range of other topics on which members internally disagree." 

— Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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