21 August, 2010

Eyeless in Gaza

There is much to be chewed over in the US Government's promotion of talks between Mahmoud Abbas (confusingly called Abu Mazen in much of the international press) and Benjamin Netanyahu, of Palestine and Israel respectively.

One of the reasons Americans don't play cricket, it is said, is that they couldn't play a game for five days and end up with no winner. So it is that the imposition of a one year deadline for success in these talks seems, to put it politely, to be the triumph of hope over experience.

The various cases against the talks are clear: some believe Netanyahu, in a strong position domestically, is not prepared to concede anything valuable. Some say that Abbas, in a weak position domestically, wouldn't dare concede anything at all. And Hamas is running Gaza; they are not participants in the talks for the simple reason they are not in favour of peace with Israel.

There is a number of counterpoints to these arguments. One of the first, I believe, is Hillary Clinton. The USA has seldom had a more determined, more self-assured Secretary of State; her striving at all costs for a result could be infectious. The second is that it has only ever been the right wing Israeli Likud Party, which Netanyahu leads, which has made any progress in the various negotiations over the years. This is known as the 'Nixon in China' syndrome, whereby if a side which is known to be hard line starts to talk, people think it must be all right. The reason Netanyahu may well make concessions - he has said that everything is on the table - is that his principal concern must now be Iran, which opened its first nuclear power station yesterday.

But without Hamas? Are we saying that Abbas is the President of Palestine which includes Gaza, where there is a hostile local administration? Or is this an attempt at a 'three state' solution?

And lastly, as I always ask, where are the Gulf States in all this, why aren't they involved, more supportive of the Palestinians? That perhaps is the biggest mystery of all.

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