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Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
July 25, 2013

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians are set to resume next week, marking a new chapter in the twenty-year-long history of Mideast relations. Robert Danin, CFR's senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies, highlights the three major challenges facing the two parties.

Opaque Diplomacy : Without transparency, reaching a consensus on particularly thorny issues is impossible, says Danin. In the past, both parties used "vague diplomatic formulas to bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences," he adds. When negotiating core differences, like delineating the Israel-Palestine border, ambiguous arguments must be avoided.

Domestic Constraints: The resumption of peace talks has fueled opposition on both sides of the border. "Both sides will be negotiating, not only with each other across a table, but also with their own people back home," Danin says. A possible Israeli push for open-ended negotiations and a potential loss in political standing have concerned Palestinians, including Hamas and President Abbas's own Fatah party. In Israel, Palestinian statehood is still a major point of contention. "Netanyahu may need to realign his political base and even leave his party to make progress with the Palestinians (as was done in the past by Likud leaders like Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Tzipi Livni)," Danin says.

U.S. Opportunity Costs: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry played an essential role in restarting the peace talks, according to Danin. However, there are other pressing issues in the rest of the world that are of vital national concern to the United States. "At some point soon, Secretary Kerry and President Obama will have to decide if Israeli-Palestinian talks merit the sustained investment of precious time and effort by America's lead diplomat," Danin says, mentioning other issues like the ongoing civil war in Syria, the government transition in Egypt, and Iran's nuclear program, which have also been identified as top U.S. foreign policy priorities.


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