Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and hardly a loather of peace, argues that the Middle East “peace process” isn’t just futile, it’s dangerous.
Let’s hope for all concerned that the Obama administration did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks, for the first time in over two years, just to get them talking to each other.
The real danger between these two star-crossed inhabitants of the same Holy Land is not failure to negotiate; it’s the failure of the negotiations. Flashpoints in the Holy Land tend to burst after they sit down at the negotiating table, give their speeches, fail to agree, and watch the process collapse. That is when the explosions begin. That is when Palestinian terrorism reignites in Israel. People tend to resort to violence when their hopes and expectations are dashed formally and frontally, not when they are merely hoping.
During the last couple of years, while negotiations have been decidedly on the backburner, Israel has been almost entirely free from terrorist attacks emanating from the Palestinian West Bank. Palestinian and Israeli security forces now work together to keep the peace in many West Bank cities, and Palestinian leaders even acknowledge this publicly. There’s also intelligence cooperation between the two sides. All of that could go up in smoke if these talks fail. Indeed, terrorists are likely to shed Israeli and perhaps even Palestinian blood in order to make the talks fail. So, staging a big, formal negotiating session at the seductive and languid Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh is a very risky enterprise.