It’s not surprising that George Mitchell will fail in his latest tour aimed at bringing Israeli and Palestinian back to negotiations. The invitation from Obama for a tripartite meeting at the U.N General Assembly is not strange. Anybody who is familiar with the American strategy and the decision-making mechanism in the administration, notably concerning the Middle East, and anybody who is familiar with President Obama’s personality and his internal position will know that the American administration won’t oblige Israel to change its attitude. Therefore, this declared failure of George Mitchell’s tour doesn’t mean that American policy has failed in the region. This is why Obama convened a tripartite meeting.
Outside of the settlements, the obstacle of being unable to return to negotiations is considered to be a failure of American policy from the Arab and Palestinian standpoint, but it may be a victory for the second party. Washington didn’t want to stop the conflict now on the foundations of previous conventions because it knows that conditions of the settlement that can satisfy both parties are not available. Thus it wanted to realize three goals:
Firstly: To insure and confirm that Washington is the only leader of the Middle East case. This is what happened during the last months of Obama’s visit, as there were no activities or European, international or Arab initiatives. Even the quadripartite retreated from the forefront, leaving the field for American action. Moscow, which talked about an international conference, moved backwards or kept silent from tackling it.
Secondly, it seems that Washington, as any other international entity, views the Oslo accords as the basis for negotiation with the Arabic and Palestinian parties and the road map plan as no longer appropriate within the facts imposed by Israel on the territory (settlement and the judaization of Jerusalem), even if there was implicit approval from Washington. Thus, with the programmed Palestinian division and the deterioration of the Arab situation, a country in the West Bank and Gaza strip having Jerusalem as its capital and the right of refugees’ return are unattainable goals, even within an agreed-upon solution. As the politics accompanying the situation don't comprehend or deal with this emptiness - particularly in a region like the Middle East - and seeing that Washington doesn’t want any other party to try to fill in for what the Oslo accords lack, Obama prepared a new initiative. First of all, the latter needs the recognition from both conflicted parties that the previous initiatives and Mitchell's tour failed. Moreover, there needs to be an appropriate opportunity to tackle it; the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and the tripartite may be the right time and place.
Thirdly, to gain time for the benefit of Washington and its ally Israel, as the Palestinian and regional situations are in the doldrums and weaken as time passes - from the American point of view. This time will be used for the resistant powers in the region to reject any suggestions. It’s time that Washington needs to resolve its suspended issues, whether those be the repercussions of the financial crisis and the reinforcement of Obama’s position and its method within the United States, or dealing with the external cases, notably Iran. Furthermore, time serves Israel, the strategic ally of Washington, despite some silly bets declaring the disjointedness of this alliance.
If we believe this was the American attitude and conception, what about the official Palestinian conception and attitude? It's not strange that president Abou Mazen accepted Obama's tripartite meeting invitation so quickly, or the attempt for high-level negotiator Mr. Saeb Erekat to state that that acceptance does not mean negotiations have resumed. We believe that the Palestinian official party has to deal with any peace attempt without cutting communication with Washington, in particular, after the Fateh movement conference which assured that its attitude was similar to the authority’s attitude. Moreover, the departure of the Hamas movement from the official international mobility equation of the settlement, and even its movement toward a settlement option may be worse than the Oslo accords because it’s limited in establishing its authority in the strip.
Therefore, we can say that stopping the negotiations has started to become a burden and an embarrassment to leaders due to the absence of an alternative. It has become clear that the Palestinian negotiator and the authority that back him up live these days under an unprecedented embarrassing and confusing situation. This is despite the fact that the chief negotiator, Mr. Saeb Erekat, does not lack the answers to throw the ball into the Israeli court, considering that the ball didn’t leave the Palestinian court years ago due to the poor performance of the Palestinian player: a negotiator and a fighter. The cause of this impasse is the stop of the negotiations with Israelis - previously considered a national, revolutionary and rational demand, especially by the opposition forces - coming at a time when other alternatives were absent. The annotation and the thought of putting an end to negotiations constituted a threat for the settlement process and the stability in the region when the alternative used to exist or there was probability of the dissolution of the Palestinian authority, the return to the resistance option, or when the threat of stopping it deters Israel and stops its settlement policy. But with the division today, the regression of the resistance method, the transformation of the authority into a reality associated with the life of most of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the willingness of some people to fight for the authority and the increase of settlement operations after negotiations ceased, stopping the negotiations is no longer a source of power, but it may be an impasse as serious as the continual stoppage. Moreover, the halt to negotiations doesn’t grant the negotiating party a national certificate or the ability to forget what happened after sixteen years of talks.
To conclude, it’s necessary to reconsider what had been said about Mitchell's failure on his tour, as this is related to a new initiative for a settlement rather than an attempt to revive an unworkable initiative. Furthermore, it’s necessary to reconsider the saying that the end of negotiations is a victory and a wise and national position from the leadership. Thus, when the national alternatives are absent, the halt of negotiations may serve the Israelis more than the Palestinians. In fact, the problem is not in the halt or continuation of the negotiations, but in its reference and the negotiating party. We think that even if negotiations resume, it won’t be better than its precedents if it stays under the same mentality that govern the negotiating party and under the same relations that govern the negotiating party with Israelis.