Jerusalem Summit

(See here) a Haaretz piece by Alug Benn and Gideon Alon that reports on the upcoming three way talks involving Israel, Palestine and the United States that are to take place in Jerusalem.

First, before someone accuses me of talking out of both sides of my mouth, let me acknowledge that I still think it is wrong for Israel to engage in talks with the new "unity government" of Palestine due to the failure of the Mecca agreement to include Hamas recognition of the right of Israel to exist. I still believe that talks should not commence until the uncompromisable point is clearly established ahead of time that Israel will enjoy the right to live in peace upon completion of the negotiations.

However the talks are evidently going to happen, perhaps due to some arm twisting from the American administration.

So if the talks are going to happen, what is the purpose of the talks? Evidently, the participants can not even agree what they are going to talk about.

What is Israel's position? From the Haaretz piece I linked to:

According to government sources, however, Olmert is refusing to discuss three major elements of any final-status agreement - Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines - because he believes that raising any of these issues would doom the talks to failure.
What is the Palestinian position? Again from the piece:

However, Abbas presented over the weekend a position that diametrically contradicted Olmert's views. "We agreed with [Secretary] Rice that it is necessary to discuss a final-status arrangement and to begin negotiations on permanent borders, the settlements and the refugee problem," he said in Cairo. Abbas also reiterated his opposition to any discussion of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.
What is my opinion on this? There is no point in holding talks if the talks do not take head on the most difficult aspects of a resolution from the start. Perhaps not every fine detail can quickly be resolved from the beginning, however a broad consensus of what the end results is going to look like should be established from the onset. Leaving the most contentious issues for some point in the future is not going to accomplish anything.

What is the justification from the Israeli side for not tackling the most difficult problems from the beginning?
"There is no doubt that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will have to make compromises on these issues, given Israel's positions, and it is not clear that he can get them past the Palestinian street," one source said.
Let's turn this concern around to what the real concern might be. "There is no doubt that Ehud Olmert will have to make compromises on these issues, given Palestinian positions, and it is not clear that he can get them past the Israeli street," Little David said.

Negotiations should tackle the most difficult issues first. Once the most difficult issues are resolved, what remains will only be the details. While some might object that "the devil is in the details" I would respond that in this case the devil is in largest issues. There is no point in even beginning negotiations if the two sides are unwilling to address the major points that fuel the conflict.


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