January 11, 2005

Israel/Palestine 2.0?

What's that? Mahmoud Abbas' election may not lead to peace in the Middle East? Surprise:
Nonetheless, a full-blown, final-status peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians is "probably more remote today than it was five years ago," according to Dore Gold, an adviser to Sharon, and researcher David Keyes. They argued in a recent essay, "What If Bush Invited Sharon and Abu Mazen to Camp David," that Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, was stridently attached to such deal-breaking demands as "right of return" for millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel during peace talks convened by President Clinton at Camp David in 2000…

The key obstacle is each side's unwavering stance that the other must first make concessions, such as those laid out in the stalled, U.S.-led "road map" to peace, but neither side is willing to do so. Uninterrupted fighting since September 2000 has claimed nearly 5,000 lives and has only entrenched each side's resolve.

For the Israeli government, the first step must be an end to Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, a demand echoed by the Bush administration. For the Palestinians, the first step must be an end to the Israeli military crackdown on Palestinians.
This wouldn't really count as newsworthy, except that lately it's struck me that Iraq may soon be facing a very similar deadlock. Spencer Ackerman keeps talking about a potential "grand bargain" between Shia and Sunnis, where the latter agrees to enter government in exchange for Shiite calls for U.S. withdrawal. But you have a serious prisoner's dilemma here (or whatever the relevant game theory term is): The Shia need assurances that the Sunnis really will lay down their arms; otherwise the new Iraqi government will be defenseless without U.S. protection. (And on the off-chance that they're not defenseless, it will be because the radicals in the Badr Brigades are off building up their militias and running death squads.) Neither side may want to blink first.

Furthermore, the Association of Muslim Scholars and other major Sunni groups may not even have the authority to call off the insurgency. AMS doesn't speak for the Baathist dead-enders, or the more radical Islamist groups like Zarqawi's Al Qaeda for Holy War or Ansar al-Sunnah. Maybe a deal is doable, but no one wants to take the first step only to get screwed.

Oh well. And no predictions/stellar analysis of Israel-Palestine here. Obviously we won't know much until we see how the local elections in the West Bank and Gaza unfold (esp. in non-Fatah-dominated areas), along with Palestinian Legislative Council elections in May. Other than that, all questions. If Hamas makes a strong showing in the PLC, does that mean the body becomes even more hard-line, or does that turn Hamas into a more moderate political body? Hell if I know.
-- Brad Plumer 6:17 PM || ||