Those conducting the present Middle East talks seem to be aware of the facts: That Arabs, even on the top table, call for expansion of boundaries to limit the total geographic area of the Palestinians. There is no taking into account the possibility that Jordan might declare independence, which could undermine this.
All of these considerations ought to be examined thoroughly in order to achieve a second peace deal – one that would properly end the war – if the rest of the region remains calm.
In the war over West Bank territory, there are clear signs that the Palestinians are not fully at ease in the agreement. Once the actual fences have been erected, Palestinians are likely to remain disgruntled and make hostile comments to their Arab neighbours. If there were peace talks in the future, then Israel would have to be assured that the Palestinians are sufficiently committed to the peace process.
With regard to the Mediterranean conflict, the issue is not as complicated as some of the headlines suggest. The Israelis already have deep-seated territorial interests, and recent clashes between Israel and Syria do not accord with a 1967 border. Indeed, it is Israeli territory that now forms the central issue in talks; the issue is not the 1967 borders – an argument that carries little meaning nowadays – but a negotiating principle that brings around the eastern boundary, with its minimum dependence on the 1967 lines.
The terms of negotiations over the other major problem in the region, the fate of Jerusalem, are therefore being argued as if they are impossible to arrive at. When the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, complained about the inevitable “consequences” of the conflict over Jerusalem, he was right to be.This is understandable, since that conflict is what carried the Arab world to this crisis. During the peace talks, a UN member state was unable to compromise on the United Nations requirements regarding Israel’s status, such as declaring it a “Jewish state”. So, all this begs the question: should it be a matter of basic regional prudence that it become the Jewish State of Israel that is the final solution of the conflict?
This is not an easy question to answer, given the number of objections, but it is certainly worth addressing. One thing to realise is that the diplomatic success of the Holy City of Jerusalem has prompted Saudi Arabia to change its policy on the Palestinian issue. Over the years, Saudi leaders have assured that they will not use the Jerusalem issue as an excuse to direct even deeper, more direct diplomatic pressure on Palestine.
When the Palestinians would like a permanent peace deal with Israel, they would have to recognize that Israel was not a Jewish state (as it is today), and they would have to accept the reemergence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as they have until now. This question may be answered by the next Palestinian president, but whether Israel will be willing to submit itself to this has yet to be determined.
When Palestinians are ready for peace, this is the time to begin considering an additional peace agreement with Israel. Such an agreement would have to include some personal concessions, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees; the establishment of a federal government for Israel that is stable and effective; an agreement between Palestinians and Israel on a long-term settlement; and the conclusion of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
We need to be realistic about the final nature of this final deal. But an optimistic view on whether peace negotiations will take place in the Middle East of the near future is one that requires more realistic assessments.