Why Is Abbas Avoiding Direct Talks with Israel?

(bitterlemons.org) Yossi Alpher - While the PLO hesitates to engage in any negotiations with the current Israeli government, there may be additional, more intriguing explanations for Abbas' preference for indirect talks. One is Abbas' political weakness within his Fatah movement. He is seen as a lame-duck leader and there is strong sentiment among his potential successors opposing any concessions to Israel. A second is the veto power that Hamas in Gaza seemingly can exercise over any real negotiating progress. A third explanation is Abbas' own hard-line positions on core issues like refugees and the Jerusalem holy basin. We got a sense of Abbas' red lines in his rejection of Olmert's far-reaching proposals in late 2008; why should he now position himself possibly to be seen yet again rejecting reasonable Israeli proposals? A fourth reason could be current progress in the Palestinian state-building project, which is essentially an exercise in unilateralism. The anticipated political endgame of this dynamic, a year from now, requires international recognition of a Palestinian state and could conceivably even be compromised by the existence of productive direct negotiations. Indirect negotiations, on the other hand, are adequate for coordinating the kind of Israeli unilateral gestures, such as relaxing security demands and withdrawing from additional territory, that reinforce the state-building process. One could argue that the proximity talks have proven convenient for all concerned. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

2010-07-30 10:06:47

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