Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians next week could be easily derailed. Concrete steps of support are needed -- by Arab states, the United States, the international community, and most of all, Netanyahu and Abbas.
When Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the US had invited the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks next week, the secretary of State did not mince words about the obstacles to success.
“The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks,” she said Aug. 20. That is why the negotiations will need “actions by all sides” to support the process.
Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu need to be ready for possible stepped-up violence from Hamas – the Palestinian militants in charge of Gaza – and for protests or provocations from Israeli settlers in the West Bank who don’t want to cede one inch of territory to a new Palestinian state.
The two leaders must also be prepared for opposition within their own political camps – opposition based on mistrust of the other side, on history, and on fear that too much will be given away.
All of this is why, as Secretary Clinton emphasized, the two leaders will need active support. It helps that Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, will join the negotiators Sept. 1 for meetings and a dinner with President Obama. They’ve already made peace with Israel and their presence will send a signal of hope in the face of a widespread skepticism about the talks.
But more than signals and symbolism are required.