News Analysis: Israeli-Palestinian stalemate set to continue: analysts

January 6, 2011 12:33 pm 

JERUSALEM, Jan. 6 — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that 2010 had been the quietest year regarding attacks against Israel in a long time, but he also warned that "a complicated reality continues to surround us."

Speaking to reporters during a tour to the Negev desert, Barak also restated the need to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians, local daily Ha'aretz reported.

Barak's statement came one day after the Israel Security Agency, also known as the Shin Bet, presented its annual summary for 2010. The report said that there were no suicide attacks in 2010, and concluded that number of terror attacks declined, continuing a trend from 2009.

Talking about the prospects of a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians, analysts told Xinhua that chances are dim for quickly finding a political solution to the quandary.

NO PEACE PROCESS

Helga Baumgarten of the political science department at Birzeit University near Ramallah told Xinhua that it's time to stop talking about a peace process, since in her view, the process has not existed for many years.

"The issue is not what will happen to the peace process. The issue is rather when will there be a peace process again," Baumgarten said.

As far as seeing any peaceful agreement on the horizon leading to the end of Israel's occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, Baumgarten said the two sides are at a dead-end.

Baumgarten outlined two reasons for the current stalemate: the first is that the Israelis are very strong and hold total military control of the area, while the Palestinians are extremely weak and totally dependent on the support that they get, or don't get from Europe and the United States.

Secondly, the present Israeli government doesn't seem to be ready to make any compromise leading towards an implementation of the two-state solution. In addition, it doesn't look like any power, be it the United States or Europe, on a secondary level, is prepared to pressure Israel.

"This leads us to two options, either we will see another couple of years with Israel being in control, building more settlements, deepening the occupation, and the Palestinians dreaming of some kind of solution," Baumgarten said.

"The other possibility is a frightening one: that things will simply explode," Baumgarten said, adding that it is very hard to predict what will happen. In any case, she concluded, if events do become explosive, it may very well happen in five to 10 years down the road.

SKEPTICAL ISRAELIS

Efraim Inbar, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, and the director of its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Xinhua that he didn't have any high expectations for 2011, either.

"Like most Israelis, I have no expectations from the Palestinians, so I don't think the peace negotiations will go anywhere," Inbar said.

Regarding the risk of a major military confrontation, Inbar made a distinction between the West Bank and Gaza. He said that the relative economic prosperity in the West Bank was something that the Palestinians living there would want to maintain, and averred that this would reduce the risk of violence.

However, Inbar said, if the current rocket attacks from Gaza continue, Israel would at some point react, but not via a large scale military operation.

Yehuda Ben-Meir, a principal research fellow and co-director of the National Security and Public Opinion Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Xinhua that peace process is at a standstill. He was also skeptical of the Palestinians' unwillingness to negotiate.

Ben-Meir suggested that the Palestinians return to the negotiating table, and pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his position on the border of a future Palestinian state. He believes such a gambit would give the U.S administration something to work with, instead of the current situation where Netanyahu can sit back and say he wants to negotiate, but the Palestinians refuse to do so.

NORTH AND SOUTH

Asked about the risk of a military escalation, Ben-Meir said that it depends on looking to the north or to the south.

"Certainly in the north I don't see the risk of a confrontation, because Hezbollah is a highly disciplined organization, it is not like the chaos that you have in Gaza," Ben-Meir said, adding "if the Hezbollah does not want to shoot, they will not shoot and no one else will shoot."

While Hezbollah has a unified leadership with a single decision maker, Ben-Meir argues that the Hamas has a number of leaders, in addition to the organization not being in total control of other Palestinian groups operating in Gaza, thereby making the situation there more volatile.

One possible scenario would be that an organization like Islamic Jihad would fire a rocket that hits an Israeli school leading to casualties. This would lead to an Israeli offensive, although neither Israel or Hamas wants a conflict, Ben-Meir said.

Naji Shurab, professor of political science at al-Azhar University of Gaza, told Xinhua that the skirmishes along the border between Israel and Gaza were not only blocking any efforts to restart the negotiations, but also a potential source of military intensification.

However, this does not mean that all is black, and, according to Shurab, there still exists the possibility that the indirect talks being suggested by the Americans might yield results.

Despite the current deadlock, Shurab said that both parties prefer talks since "they fear the other option in the case of failure of the negotiations." (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

Comments

Comments are closed.