A recent poll shows that most Israelis are pessimistic that the new round of talks with Palestine will succeed. A majority of Israelis also oppose withdrawing to pre-1967 borders and recognizing a Palestinian “right of return.” History indicates that, if both sides are not ready for peace negotiations, those negotiations could fail, leading to more violence. Heritage distinguished fellow Kim Holmes makes just that point in a new Washington Times column.
Bringing both sides together with hopes of reconciliation is a noble goal, but when they are so far from agreement, it could do more harm than good. The situation today is similar to what preceded the second Intifada in 2000. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s hold on power is weak, as was Yasser Arafat’s before the Camp David meetings. Holmes fears that the failure of the new negotiations spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry could be used as “an opportunity for a more radical and charismatic leader to take over leadership of the [Palestinian] Authority, or for sparking violence in Gaza as a way to sabotage the talks.”
These new talks come at a time when other parts of the region are also in turmoil. Nineteen U.S. embassies there remain closed because of a terrorist threat. Protests in Egypt have resulted in over 70 deaths. And, of course, there’s the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Israel and Palestine will not likely reach a true “peace” agreement unless there is more they can agree upon. Secretary Kerry should be careful not to raise expectations that these talks will be different simply because it’s a new age with new U.S. negotiators. He should learn from past mistakes.